Posts tagged fellows
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.


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.