Posts tagged Fellows 2014
The Life of a Fellow: Aelita

Advice from the Fearful

The seniors at Kensington are graduating in 5 weeks, and I have been thinking of what I can say to them; of what I can ask of them before they leave.

This is all that I am sure of, and from here I will make my request:

Vulnerability, honesty, and compassion make us human.


There are invisible walls that we build around ourselves, as protection, and as a remedy to fear; fear of dismissal, fear of failure, fear of genuine self-reflection. They separate us from realities that we do not want to face, and from all those who call into question the perfect image that we wish to project. Walls that are meant for protection however, will only end up isolating.

You will feel your flaws anyway. You will be afraid anyway. Not because you’re doing something wrong, not because you are not smart enough, or attractive enough, or eloquent enough, but because we live in a world of unknowns, and you will always have questions. You will be afraid, and in being afraid you will be amongst the 7.2 billion people worldwide: people who are afraid to go home, people who are afraid to leave home, people who are afraid of taking a step forward for fear that there won’t be any ground beneath them. This is a fact of life, and we do no good by pretending otherwise. Do not deny the reality you are living in, do not deny the people who hold up mirrors and ask you hard questions.

Build a fortress around yourself, and you will seem confident, powerful, but you will always feel a little bit weak, a little bit fearful.

Here vulnerability and honesty come in.

Admit that you are afraid, and you will learn that no person is impenetrable. No one who has ever sat in a classroom or stood in front of an audience has not at one time or another felt terrified and underprepared. You will learn that no one started out “smart” or “talented,” but instead gained skills through asking for help and failing over and over and over again, until they had tried every solution but the right one. Admit fear and you will learn that real confidence is standing unshielded and unapologetic.

And here compassion comes in.

You are not any more flawed than anyone else; you are not any less worthy of forgiveness. Be kind to yourself. 

So my request: Do not shut yourself away in a windowless room, do not inflict punishment upon yourself in repentance. 

Ask for support, admit that you are scared, and then take a step forward anyway.

The Life of a Fellow: Christine

“What is a PLUS Leader?”

Often I hear students ask this, wondering what exactly a “PLUS Leader” is and what is the process of becoming one. Well, according to our programming description, a PLUS Leader is someone who internalizes our core values of Believe, Act, and Inspire through workshops, college visits, and service projects. They join a community of leaders on campus to assist their peers in the pursuit of postsecondary education and help cultivate college-going culture within the school community. But honestly, it’s so much more than that.

I don’t think my words can fully illustrate the impact of the PLUS Leader program, or describe just how much I love watching my students grow as individuals and as leaders. So here are some words from some of my recently graduated PLUS Leaders:

 “The biggest lesson I’ve learned as a PLUS Leader would have to be: Never doubting what you feel. Never fearing who you are, and being content with the decisions you make. What being a PLUS Leader means to me would be that I know myself, I can create an impact on others and their decisions, keep them from being the wrong ones. It means having the courage, the heart, and confidence to know I can help whoever it is that needs a push forward. I can help others and I should do so with no shame. I want to pass on what it is I’ve learned from being a PLUS Leader to younger and fresher minds. I want to have the opportunity to let future PLUS Leaders know that they should embrace who they are and they have the potential to do so much more than they see around them. I want to be the person that brings out the best in them.”  - VO; 11th grade

 “The biggest lesson I have learned as a PLUS Leader is that anybody can be a leader. A leader is just a person that shows its best effort at something. Not only is it effort but willingness to try new things. To grow as a person and show a good example. To be a PLUS Leader is a challenging thing but a possible goal. As a PLUS Leader you see what really needs help and what is the most important weakness in someone. As a PLUS Leader I was able to know how I can help everyone because most people don’t let other people help them. A leader is not always an outstanding person but a person that never gives up. Also, someone that can get back on track when they fall off. As a PLUS Leader I was able to help myself grow as a leader in general… I want to show other people how to embrace their leadership. I want to show them what helped me to become a better leader. Also, I would tell all the next PLUS Leaders that 12+ is a perfect place to help you grow as a student and leader.” – JZ; 10th grade

As we get ready to interview and accept a new cohort for the Spring semester, I find that I can’t quite contain my excitement. As I look over this semester’s applicants I see determined and passionate students that want to make a difference in our community. I’ve seen some of them soar towards the top of their classes. I’ve seen some of them overcome academic obstacles. I see some of them with a drive to help others. There’s so much untapped potential within these students, they have yet to realize it, and throughout the semester, I have the opportunity to watch them grow through working with them in our workshops and personally, through building relationships. Over a period of a semester, we’ll explore topics such as personal narratives, leadership styles, social issues, and service. In our time together, the students will be challenged to consider what it means to take these things and use them to impact the community around them. Having seen how much my PLUS Leaders have grown over the past few months, I can’t wait to know this new cohort of PLUS Leaders and see how they’ll impact our community here at Kensington Health Sciences.

The Life of a Fellow: Alex

This summer, 12+ welcomed six new talented individuals to the team through the 2014-2015 Fellows Initiative. These Fellows are commissioned to implement workshops, to provide academic assistance, and to serve our students in the PLUS Centers of our partner schools, Kensington Health Sciences Academy and Penn Treaty School. Here, we document their stories. 

Alex studied Communications, LGBTQ & Sexuality Studies, and Community Action & Social Change at the University of Michigan. He is passionate about racial, economic and queer/trans justice and sexual violence prevention and education, and he loves One Direction, going to concerts, and cooking. Alex brings these interests to Penn Treaty, where he inspires students to spread school-wide culture. In this post, Alex offers ten lessons to his students.

I humbly offer a list of lessons that I’ve picked up along the way to becoming a 12+ Fellow. These are the lessons that I hope to share with my students during my time with them as their educator, mentor, and friend. It’s the least I can do given that my students will never know how much they’ve taught me and continue to teach me every single day. Leaving them with this map is just a small token of my gratitude for allowing me into their lives and giving me the privilege of seeing them grow, push themselves, and succeed.

  1. You are the expert of your own life. Honor your story. If you don’t tell your story, someone else will. Know where your roots are so you can see where you’re growing.

  2. You cannot heal until you’ve admitted that you’re hurting. Be vulnerable when you can. It is easier to say “I hate you” than it is to say “You hurt me.” It is not a sign of weakness to have a soft heart in a harsh world.

  3. It is easier to say “I don’t want to do that” than it is to say “I’m scared I’ll fail.” Apathy is giving into your fears. Admitting your fears is bravery.

  4. Set goals. You cannot face something that you cannot name. Name your hopes and fears. Be intentional. Live life—don’t let it live you.

  5. You are not alone in your struggles. You are not the first person to have gone through what you’ve gone through and you won’t be the last. When we take the risk to open ourselves up and reach out, others will reach back.

  6. Take care of yourself. Drink lots of water and eat well when you can. It’s just as important to maintain your mental health as well. Stress, anxiety, depression—these are all very real. Admitting that we are affected by the demands of life does not make us weak. Taking the time to nurture ourselves does not make us selfish.

  7. You are strong and more resilient than you know. Don’t let anyone minimize how hard high school is. I see you fighting.

  8. The weight of your parent’s struggles and expectations are not your burden to carry. You cannot help others before you help yourself. Eventually, you’re going to have to put yourself first so that one day, you can truly give back to your family and your community in an impactful way.

  9. “Our most radical work is to love ourselves” — Kim Katrin Milan. No one teaches how to be loved or how to love. We must seek out what loving others, being loved, and loving ourselves means to us purposefully.

  10. You matter.