Posts tagged penn treaty
Life of a Fellow: Frank

Introducing...the 2015-2016 Class of Fellows! These incredible individuals have dedicated the year to serving in partner schools and developing relationships with students. Follow along this year for an inside look into the life of a 12+ Fellow.

Meet Frank: Graduate of the University of Pennsylvania with a major in biology, candidate for a masters in biotechnology, diehard New England Patriots fan, obstacle course racer, and Fellow at Penn Treaty.

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So I’m finally sitting down to write this reflection. Ideas have been floating around in my head, but it took a while to confront the blank page before me. Perhaps the reason I’ve been delaying this moment is because, subconsciously, I haven’t been able to categorize and interpret everything I’ve come across thus far. It’s a bit unsettling. In the short month that I’ve been at Penn Treaty, I’ve seen students experience a spectrum of emotions, make amazing strides in maturity, and delve deeper into their own ambitions and insecurities than I have in the last 24 years of my life. 

On my end, it’s been daunting trying to analyze all the emotions I’ve felt.  Admiration, awe, guilt, frustration, pride, exhaustion, inspired, enthusiastic, driven, dejected, betrayed, humbled, respected, trusted, enlightened. (There are so many I can’t even keep my parallelism straight!) I won’t pretend to understand what this all means. Instead, I’d like to share the moments—the vignettes if you will—of students who’ve absolutely stunned me. 

A Proud Senior

When I first met him, I instantly pegged him as the class clown. He’s funny and charming, but also quick to walk away whenever confronted with anything serious. He’s overflowing with confidence and has no problem speaking to adults about his future. (Unbeknownst to him, he became my rock as I waded through the intimidating first week of school.) However, it wasn’t until I unintentionally sat in on his math class that I saw the cracks in this facade. 

It took some prodding and coercing, but we finally sat down together to look at his math homework. Within 5 minutes, the bravado and jest that I was accustomed to became humility and anger. Phrases like “Man I’m too dumb for this” and “This is why I ain’t goin’ to college” seemed like only clichés before this moment. But despite his outward aversion towards fractions, there was a hungry determination to learn. We persevere, another 15 minutes pass, and now it’s, “Do another, do another” and “See mister, told you I’d get it”. 

A couple days later I pop in his math class again, and he flags me down with a sheet of paper. It’s a 100 on his quiz. And there it is—pride, in its sincerest form.

An Ambitious Junior

It was around the 2nd week of school that I first spoke with him. His class had a substitute for the day so they were finishing their worksheets with 12+. We start chatting, and I’m suddenly floored by how much political and historical knowledge he has. He’s quoting statistics and facts as if he’s reading straight out of a textbook. After nonchalantly blowing my mind, he packs up and leaves for his next period. What just happened?

I catch him later that week during lunch playing chess in the PLUS Center. I peek over some shoulders and watch him play. He’s pretty good. The math teacher is starting a chess team so I recommend he join. Everyone around the table scoffs at the idea, saying that it’s social suicide, so I drop it. (It’s worth noting that these guys play chess religiously.)

The following week we started asking for nominations for the PLUS Leader program. I ask the group playing chess if they think they’ll be nominated. He brushes it off and says, “Nah, that’s not for me. I just like to chill and get my [stuff] done in class.” Fair enough. However, I think he’d be a great candidate and hunt him down after lunch to talk about being a PLUS Leader. We peel away some of the excuses for why he doesn’t want to apply and eventually he reveals that he doesn’t feel like he fits the mold. He knows some past PLUS Leaders and feels like he’s not what we’re looking for, despite having a lot of the characteristics we value in applicants. We talk about the qualities that make a good leader, and he admits he’s a bit self-conscious about standing out. But after some encouragement and pestering, I get him seek out a teacher nomination. A few days later we deliver our PLUS Leader applications and when I hand him one, he seems eager. I think he’s ready to start showcasing his talents.

An Aloof Senior

We had met last year when I stopped by to volunteer for a day. We talked a bit of football and left it at that. Now, months later, I’m scheduling a senior advising session with him. He doesn’t respond to the first appointment slip I deliver. That’s OK; I should probably ask him face-to-face. 

Just my luck! I pass him in the hall, except he adamantly insists that I’ve got the wrong guy. After a few minutes (he’s got me unsure at this point), I ask to see his student ID. It is him. Ha ha, funny. Anyway, we schedule a time slot for after his class, but again, a no-show. The next week I see him in the halls again and as I walk up, he jukes around me and sprints to the other side of the building and down the stairs. This guy’s impossible. I decide to catch him during class (nowhere to run) and discover that I’ve pushed too far. I call out his name, and he snaps back at me that I “can’t make him go to 12+” and that he “ain’t got nothing to talk to me 'bout”. 

Defeated, and a bit bitter, I ask around about him. It turns out he has plans, big plans. But he hasn’t quite figured out how they’ll come to fruition and how 12+ fits into his journey. I enlist the help of a friendly face from last year and eventually get this wily senior into the PLUS Center. He’s curt and distant at first, but we start talking football again and we find that we’re both huge Patriots fans. That softens him up a bit. We keep bouncing back and forth between college applications and the New England backfield dilemma, his transcript and our patchwork secondary. When it’s time for him to go, I can’t say that he left happy, but he seemed surprised at how painless (and possibly enjoyable?) our meeting was.

Like I said, I can’t quite put into words what these moments have taught me. But I do know they’ve challenged me in ways that classes and previous jobs never have. It’s a flurry of emotions every day, but I relish every second. I hope that by the end of this year, I’ll have grown as much as these students do every day.

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.

The Life of a Fellow: Julia

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. 

Julia is our resident Penn State expert, world traveler (she's been to twelve countries!) and pizza lover, coming to 12+ after graduating with a degree in Rehabilitation and Human Services and working in Penn State Admissions and Campus Visits. Julia reflects on several months at Penn Treaty School with 13 reasons she loves being a 12+ Fellow.

Being a Fellow for 12+ has been the most humbling and meaningful experience I could have ever imagined. This Fellowship has given me the opportunity to see what it is like to work with an underserved community where our most important task is to inspire and motivate our students to acknowledge and accept their highest potential. There is no greater feeling than seeing one of my students truly recognize their greatness and understand their self-worth. I love coming to work every single morning, and I could not imagine a more perfect position for me. Below I have listed some reasons why I love coming to work every day.

1. This photo shows an exciting game of Ninja that we played the first day of Fellows training back in August. From the first few moments I knew that I was going to be working with an awesome group of fun, upbeat people in an environment that fosters silliness and creativity.

1. This photo shows an exciting game of Ninja that we played the first day of Fellows training back in August. From the first few moments I knew that I was going to be working with an awesome group of fun, upbeat people in an environment that fosters silliness and creativity.

2. Nothing wins me over like a good cup of coffee.

2. Nothing wins me over like a good cup of coffee.

3. Who says two weeks of intensive training has to be stressful or boring? With 12+, training was not only educational; we made sure to take some time to bounce around and have some fun.

3. Who says two weeks of intensive training has to be stressful or boring? With 12+, training was not only educational; we made sure to take some time to bounce around and have some fun.

4. 12+ truly has the most amazing, dedicated, and supportive staff. I could not ask for a better group of role models and mentors and I feel so lucky every day that I surround myself with such inspirational individuals.

4. 12+ truly has the most amazing, dedicated, and supportive staff. I could not ask for a better group of role models and mentors and I feel so lucky every day that I surround myself with such inspirational individuals.

5. At the end of training our specific teams and positions were revealed. I was chosen as a Penn Treaty Fellow, and I could not have been more elated. As the point person for the RAISE program, I have had the opportunity to work with the 9th and 10th grade on workshops and mentoring. To the right  is my beautiful Penn Treaty team and a huge reason of why I smile even when leaving for work every morning before 7:30 AM.

5. At the end of training our specific teams and positions were revealed. I was chosen as a Penn Treaty Fellow, and I could not have been more elated. As the point person for the RAISE program, I have had the opportunity to work with the 9th and 10th grade on workshops and mentoring. To the right is my beautiful Penn Treaty team and a huge reason of why I smile even when leaving for work every morning before 7:30 AM.

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6. Everyone loves birthday celebrations and at 12+ we do it right! Nothing like some Brown Betty cupcakes and arcade games to celebrate another year with some wonderful company.

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7. Here is the fabulous Senior class!! They continue to surprise and impress me every day with their hard work and dedication. To the left is one of our seniors Amsell who recently won a scholarship to IUP for his academic achievements. Students like Amsell are why we continue to work and fight for educational equity in our schools.

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8. The RAISE program was developed to help freshmen transition into high school as well as provide them with the tools to ensure their success throughout their time at Penn Treaty and beyond. We had a photoshoot during the first few weeks of school to get the students excited about the program and 12+. As you can see, I cannot resist a photoshoot myself.

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9. Here are a few of our marvelous PLUS Leaders, some of the most exceptional, resilient individuals I have ever met. Our PLUS leaders went through a recommendation, application and interview process to be chosen to represent their student body as leaders in the school. 

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10. Like I said earlier, at 12+ we know how to have fun! Here are some photos from the Second Annual Charity Gala and Auction where we celebrated our successes so far, our hopes for a bright future and of course, our students. Here I am with two of our current seniors Ashley and Brittany and recent Penn Treaty graduate Abraham. Ashley had the opportunity to speak and tell her story, giving a face to our cause here at 12+. It was a night full of love, hope and community that I will never forget.

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11. Here is a snapshot of Penn Treaty’s College Week mural. I was tasked with creating the mural but had an immense amount of help from my students who created the schools and the individual people. We visited all of the lunches, including the middle school’s and had all of the students create their own person and put it up on the mural. This is the finished project and if I may say so myself, I think it looks pretty incredible!

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12. Here are some adorable sixth graders participating in the College Week photoshoot. Even though we do not work with the middle schoolers all the time it is always a treat getting to spend time with them. We are hoping to expand our services to the middle school beginning in the new year and I am looking forward to working with the amazing middle school teaching staff and the silly, wild, and entertaining students.

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13. Even though there are a million more reasons I could list of why I truly love being a 12+ Fellow, the most important reason is because I truly love my students. They are the reason I am smiling when I wake up at 6:00AM every day, they are the reason I am excited to get to school every morning and they are the laughter, love, and life that fill my days. I am a better person by knowing each and every single one of my students; their stories and life experiences are my motivation and the reason I am doing what I am doing.