Intern's Final Reflection: Calvin

Calvin Kim currently attends The College of William & Mary. He is a sophomore pursuing majors in Sociology as well as in Asian and Pacific Islander American Studies. He first heard about 12+ as a student at Ivy Advantage Academy and since then desired to get involved in whatever way possible. We’re happy this summer provided that very opportunity!

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I was given several project goals for my internship. I knew that since I would be working over the summer, I wouldn’t have as many opportunities for direct service and that I’d be given more tasks having to do with planning for the upcoming school year. Overall, it was still very interesting seeing all the work that had to be completed before the first day of school. Not only did the staff have to interview and hire Fellows for next year, they also had to update the student centers, apply for grants, and prepare recently graduated seniors for post high school life. I played my part by developing two databases: one was a compilation of different grant and funding organizations 12+ could potentially apply to, and the other was full of various trade and vocational schools that students who weren’t pursuing the traditional 4 year college route could use as a helpful resource. I also helped paint and set up our new PLUS centers. But my final project of the summer was one of direct service. I was asked to assist a cohort of recently graduated seniors in planning and taking the appropriate steps toward their post secondary lives, whether it be helping them enroll in college, figuring out their financial aid, or hunting for apartments.

Of all my projects, working with my students was the most meaningful to me. When I started contacting everyone, there were some students who were less responsive than others. I had to learn how to redirect and focus my attention on the students who did reach back out to me. Those who did respond were all very excited to be starting college and thrilled that they had someone to help them out along the way. It was exciting. Together, we worked through various problems or obstacles that arose, and I helped prep most of my cohort for college before having to hand them over to another staff member at the end of my internship. I’m so proud I could help even one student going off to college. The comments of sincere gratitude and thanks I received from my students were bonuses to an already fulfilling summer.

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The more I worked with these students, the more I came to see how important 12+ was to these students and their families. Parents and family members know and believe in 12+ as an organization they can trust their kids with. They know that the staff here will do everything in their power to further the students’ opportunities for education and success. Being tasked with working with recently graduated seniors reaffirmed the fact that we are an organization constantly striving to serve our students, even after they graduate. 

This was made all the more clear as I heard from the Fellows and Site Directors who served this past year as well. I talked a lot with Ebony, Shay, and Devon, because they had directly worked with the Kensington Health Sciences Academy students I was assigned. It was eye-opening to learn from them about how roles that exist within the suburban schools I grew up attending don’t exist in many public city schools here in Philadelphia. For example, while the counselors at my high school were responsible for college prep and overall guidance on the direction of our lives, Devon explained to me that in many city schools, counselors were solely responsible for counseling. So, at schools where 12+ isn’t yet mentoring, there are students who might not have heard anything about college and how to be preparing for it. I also loved seeing how passionate these three were about supporting the students I was working with. They knew the skills, strengths, and weaknesses of every student I brought up and had fond memories of each of them. It was inspiring to see just how much the 12+ staff members invest their time into the lives of the students they work with.

If I had to share three things about my experience at 12+, the first thing I’d share is how much fun I had during my internship. 12+ embodies the saying “Work hard, play hard.” While everyone put in 110% effort in doing their jobs and making sure everything was prepared for the school year to come, we also knew that it was ok to have some fun every once in a while. We took advantage of all the free food we could get (Dress like a cow for free Chick-Fil-A sandwiches and free Slurpee’s on 7/11!!) and had some, what we like to call, “Funsies” planned for after the workday was over. Such “Funsies” looked like trips to the Franklin Institute and to Dave and Buster’s. The next thing I would share is the mission of 12+ and the importance of their work. They fight for education equity and believe in taking the steps to making it a universal practice. Everyone I met at 12+ acted with such conviction and passion in the work they were doing, and they’ve truly inspired me to follow their lead and give it my all in this fight for equity. Finally, I’d share how to donate to 12+, which you can do here ☛ www.12plus.org/donate! I realized this summer that the biggest obstacle hindering non-profits from unlocking their fullest potential is their lack of funding. It was crazy to see 12+ having to survive off of mostly grants and donations, which is not always the most secure, stable, and guaranteed way to be financially sustained.

If anyone on campus asks me about my time at 12+, I’ll talk their ears off about all the great things they do. This experience has helped me transition from being a merely conscientious citizen to one that has more confidence in acting upon my convictions. Seeing first-hand both the problems and causes of those problems in these Philadelphia neighborhoods has pushed me to make working with my community a priority. Education has definitely risen to the top of my personal list of societal problems and inequalities needing to be solved as soon as possible. I am grateful for my time with 12+ and look forward to seeing what they accomplish in the future.

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