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.