Fellow's Final Reflection: Danielle
This past year, Danielle did amazing work at Penn Treaty High School and formed close relationships with every one of her students. We are so proud of her transition to the Financial Aid department at University of the Arts and know she will work just as hard to take care of students there as she did at Penn Treaty.
I had been living in Philly for about six months when I started at 12+, and working here has finally made me feel like I belong in Philly and that I could make a home here. When I began at 12+, I never expected to love the experience nearly as much as I did. The moment that I was offered a full-time job at the tailend of my Fellowship year just recently, my immediate and genuine first thought was that I would be able to return next year for Penn Treaty’s Career Day.
The community that I’ve been so lucky to have found myself woven into remains my absolute favorite element of my Fellowship year. The community that was built within the walls of the PLUS Center gives me a feeling that has no words. If I had to characterize it, I would say it made me feel warm and cozy. I could roll out of bed each morning and know that I’m about to enter a space that will uplift me and make me feel that I’m in the right place at the right time in my life. I’ve been able to learn so much about myself within the context of my Fellowship year, most of which was taught to me by the students that I work with. They’ve taught me to be confident in my decisions, to easily laugh at myself, and to be resilient when the world tries to tear you down.
I think that the most important skill that I’ve learned from working with our students is that of patience. These students have more patience than I ever thought possible, and show it to themselves, their peers, and 12+ with such grace that it blows me away. They’ve taught me to show myself the same patience that I would show them or my peers, and to give myself that same level of respect and love I would convey to others as well. That is such an important life lesson, and one I wouldn’t have gained without getting to build relationships with these incredible people. I went into this year knowing that I had a lot to learn from them and a lot of ways to grow, but never expected to learn and flourish as much as I did.
I am thankful that 12+ exists for my own, selfish sake, but after spending a year in school alongside these students, I am more so thankful that 12+ exists at all. Unlike other work I’ve done in the realm of college access, 12+ genuinely assists and respects all paths a student could want. I am proud to be a part of such an open space that exists solely to serve the students in our neighborhoods, and provides them supports that would not exist without the PLUS Center. I am proud to know these students, and proud to know the school faculty that genuinely show so much care for them. I am proud to know my colleagues here, and I am generally just proud to work at this organizaiton.
There are a bunch of students whom I’ll never forget, and a few of them made that very intentional by giving me pictures of them so that I “would remember them”. They’d be impossible to forget, pictures or not. I’ll always reflect on the joy and growth that this group of students brought me, and I’d be lying if I said I won’t feel emotional when I’m no longer referred to as just “Miss”. I’ll miss their sass, their weird jokes, and their stories brimming with strength and heartache that they share. I’ll miss hearing about their first dates, seeing pictures of their dogs, and editing senior projects. I’ll miss being headed to the bathroom and hearing this one freshman call out to me, “Miss, are you cutting class?!” as well as the freshman who pretends not to like us, but always says he missed us whenever we’re out of the school for Professional Development. I’ll miss learning to dance from them and getting annihilated in chess by them. In fact, to keep this already long post short and readable, I’ll just say that there are few things that I won’t miss.
I plan to take my Penn Treaty mug to my next job, and when life feels overwhelming or I feel like I’m incapable, remember all of these small and beautiful moments spent during my Fellowship year. I’ll remember my all time favorite compliment from a student when the world feels crushing and terrifying: “If I could have any personality in the world, I’d pick yours”. Thank you, thank you, thank you.