Posts in Fellows 2015
Life of a Fellow: Ebony's Final Reflections

This is the second post in a six-part series, in which each Fellow looks back on their year in the PLUS Center and shares what they will take with them as they embark on their next ventures. Today we hear from Ebony, who spent the year at KHSA and will be attending Temple University for a Masters program in Urban Education in the fall.


Before working for 12+ as a Fellow, I volunteered in the KHSA PLUS Center.  Since those days, I’ve learned several things. I have a better understanding of the education system in urban settings, the concept of meeting our students where they are, and ways to engage students. It was important for me to learn the different viewpoints and perspectives of our students and administration. This gave me a better understanding of the urban education system, which opened my curiosity about the subject and encouraged me to go back to school to study urban education. I have also learned to be able to use different personal strategies for engaging students. Through trial and error, I was able to see what methods work with certain students. Every student is an individual and deserves an individual plan and/or approach.

I would be lying if I said this year was easy. Something I struggled with this year was our students wanting to attend/apply to certain schools for which they did not meet the requirements.  In these situations, I felt uneasy, because I knew the students were capable of achieving success, but were not prepared to do so at that level. What helped me push through this feeling was remembering my position and where I stand. We are “college advisors” and we advise.  My biggest breakthrough happened when working with one of our PLUS Leaders who was very hesitant about applying to four-year schools. Her grades and SAT scores were good enough for her to be accepted into some four-year schools but she would not apply. I remembered to stay consistent and understanding with her.  After months and months, she finally decided to apply to several public universities, and she was accepted into three of them. Between getting accepted into colleges, becoming a PLUS Leader, and participating in our PLUS Leaders graduation, she became so much more confident in her path and education. She became a leader and inspired others in her community, and she matured and came to the conclusion that CCP would be best for her.

This year has come and gone quickly, but I appreciate every moment I shared with the students of KHSA.  I feel as though our motto, Believe, Act, and, Inspire, was so present in our center this year.  I encouraged students to believe in their own potential, to take the necessary steps/actions to achieve their goals, and to inspire others to do the same. The Class of 2016 did exactly that and more because they inspired me to do the same. While my students wrote their personal statements, so did I. While my students completed their FAFSAs, so did I. While my students celebrated being accepted into their dream schools, so did I. I never thought I would go back to school, because I always thought I hated school. But I learned a quick lesson this year. We do not do things just for ourselves. So many other people are watching us and look up to us for guidance and/or direction. Representation matters! It can be super discouraging for some of our students to desire a post-secondary education when no one around their school or home is setting an example for them. I soon realized that I was that example for many of the female students at KHSA. I hope my presence alone has inspired more students to achieve post-secondary education. I hope they understand the value of education.  I hope I have shown them the importance of being a woman of color and having an education. The Fellowship has helped me narrow down decisions about my future path. Now, more than ever, I see the importance of education and the value of it.

In so many ways, I have grown as a person along with my students this year. But I have also been lucky to grow along with a great group of ladies who encouraged one another daily, gave constructive criticism and feedback, and never let me give up on myself. Whether they know it or not, they inspire me and I am grateful for each member of K-Squad and thank them for allowing me into their lives.  Most of all, though, the students of KHSA have inspired me as much as I have inspired them. The students of KHSA have left a footprint on my heart and this year of fellowship will forever travel with me, wherever I go.



Life of a Fellow: Jenn's Final Reflections

This is the first post in a six-part series, in which each Fellow looks back on their year in the PLUS Center and shares what they will take with them as they embark on their next ventures. First up is Jenn, who spent the year at Penn Treaty and will be attending Penn State for a Ph.D./J.D. program in Educational Theory and Policy in the fall.


In my first week at Penn Treaty, I met R. He came in and asked us who we were, and bounced around the room like an errant pinball. He spoke at 72 RPMs, often telling multiple stories at once. There was an energy to everything he did that was unavoidable and infectious. I asked him if he had anything in particular to work on, and he pulled out a pile of crumpled, backpack-worn papers encompassing the work for all of his various classes. I quickly discovered that his attention could only be held for a little while before he would glaze over or run away or start talking about hockey.

Over the coming weeks, we worked together every day, often for hours. I read to him, and we learned about branches of government and the Constitution. I haven’t taken chemistry since high school, but R had failed the class last year, and we weren’t going to let that happen again. Together, we read the chapters about the periodic table and electron configuration, and I made diagrams to show him covalent bonds and chemical reactions. I told him honestly that I had done very poorly in the class when I took it over a decade ago, both because it was hard and because I didn’t put in the work. I needed him to know that struggle is not the same as stupidity, and that he was capable. When I didn’t understand a concept, we brought Frank in, and pushed through as a group.

By the end of the semester, R was bounding in every day with work to do. His friends started calling him “12+ R.” Though it bummed him out in the beginning, he was embracing the moniker, responding to their taunts with, “Let’s see you get an A!” and “My work is all done!” His teachers were impressed, and shared regular updates on his progress. When R knew that his work involved complicated chemistry, he would run in and loudly exclaim, “Ready to work, Frank?” He became comfortable working on his own, he asked for help when he needed it, and he could explain (with only a little bit of help) concepts he was learning in his own words.

At the end of the third quarter, after working hard all year, R accomplished something amazing. He earned, for the first time since elementary school, As in two classes. He came to the center, beaming, holding out the report card for everyone to see. When he smiled, his whole face shone. There was pride radiating from every inch of his small (but mighty) frame. His teachers were proud, and we were proud, and I hope his mom was proud. He worked hard, and he improved, and everyone around him noticed.

At the end of the year, during a staff event, his civics teacher approached me. Mr. L told me that what I had done with R was amazing—that he was a totally different kid, and that my patience was incredible. Other teachers chimed in, at turns thanking me and celebrating my work. I felt overwhelmed—grateful that professionals saw me this way, honored that R had trusted me so much, and a little bit guilty for accepting praise for a thing that had so much more to do with R than it did with me. I thanked the group of teachers for recognizing the change in R, and for not giving up on him when it was incredibly tempting to do so. I definitely cried.


On this penultimate day of my fellowship, I could be proud of so many things that I’ve done or said or learned. I could be proud of workshops and test prep and college apps. I could be proud that I made it to the end. Instead, though, when I think about my year and how to wrap up, I am proud of R. I am proud that he walked across the stage on June 20th in front of his family and accepted a diploma that he truly earned. I am proud that he was nominated for, and won, an award for Resiliency. I am proud to have been a small part of his life for this one brief moment. And finally, I am proud that I was one of the people he ran to at the end of graduation, and that he stood still long enough to let me hug him in front of his friends.


Life of a Fellow: Ebony

Ebony graduated from Temple this past May with a major in Adult and Organizational Development and a minor in History. Ebony is a photographer, people watcher, and museum hopper. Ebony is a former 12+ Temple Chapter volunteer, and she now comes to 12+ as a Fellow at KHSA.


Vianca offered the warmest welcome to the new Fellows at Kensington Health Sciences Academy. She was the first student I met at KHSA and since that day our relationship has blossomed. The foundation of our bond started with our mutual love for art. We share images we have captured, drawings, poetry, and creative writings. Gaining this bond with Vianca is just one of the many things I’d like to highlight about my journey as a Fellow. I interviewed Vianca about her experiences with 12+ and her involvement with the PLUS Center this year. During my interview with Vianca, I asked her to share as much as she was comfortable with. We also took a few pictures as we walked the streets surrounding KHSA.


So, tell me about yourself!
“My name is Vianca. I always wanted to have my grandma's last name, Cancel, but my dad said no! I love photography, drawing, poetry, and writing stories. I’ll be a writer one day. I love interacting with people! Like if someone needs help or advice, I love talking and helping people through personal problems. I think I get that from my dad. He is my biggest inspiration. He gets advice from his aunt all the time and passes her advice to me. I also want to learn Spanish, so I can talk to her.”

What are some of your long term goals?
“I know what my goals are but I’m experiencing one of my goals now. I never thought I would make it this far. I had some very eye opening experiences but I’m glad to be where I am now. Long term goals? College, of course. I’m going to be a writer! My dad started college but didn't finish. My mom struggled a lot in life. I want to finish where my dad left off. It’s like my dad started this path to college, and I’m going to finish. For the both of us.”

How has the PLUS Leader Program shaped your leadership qualities?
“I feel like the PLUS Leader Program just polished the leadership skills and qualities I already knew I had. It’s like an oyster. You know, the shell is shut until someone opens it, but the pearl is still shining inside. Just like my qualities and skills were in me, just needed help embracing them. The PLUS Leader Program opened me up and developed my skills. I knew I had the potential to be a leader, I just didn’t know how. Now since I’ve graduated from the program, I still use what I learned outside of the PLUS Center.”

What about 12+ do you enjoy this year?
“I really like the individuality between each Fellow. Everyone in the Center is so easy to get along with. When I see you all in the morning, it makes my day! Even if I am having a bad day, I know I can come in, talk to y'all and my day will get better. The relationships I have gained with 12+ from this year and years before has been awesome. I have this thing about positive people. People who make positive changes in my life hold a special place in my heart. That’s where 12+ is.” 


Any last words?
“I love having 12+ in our school. Being involved with 12+ has been a form of validation for me. Now, I know how awesome I am. Now, I know how strong I am. 12+ just confirmed and validated my goals for me, while helping me become stronger. Every school should have a 12+.”

Captured by Vianca

Captured by Vianca