Because Filipinos are everywhere, the chances that there’s a Filipino who has attended a Liberated Learner (LL) Center in America is quite high so how lucky are we that we get connected to and hear from Kai, a young Filipino who finished three years at the Princeton Learning Cooperative (PLC). PLC is one of the members of the LL network that was started by Joel Hammon as mentored by Ken Danford.
Instead of photos, Kai provided me with his artworks below and patiently answered questions from somebody eager to get first hand information.
How did you learn about PLC?
We were looking for a place to transfer to from the high school I was in that would give me more flexibility.
Why and how did you and your parents decide for you to attend PLC?
I was missing a lot of school, at least once a week, because of my Sensory Processing Disorder and other mental health issues. It was affecting my studies, limiting my social interaction, stressing me to no end… Most high schools weren’t going to accommodate me like they did in elementary and middle school. Having a more flexible schedule would work better for me as my condition is sporadic and unpredictable.
What was a typical day at PLC for you?
A typical day would have been settling in at around 9 am, going to classes, lunch and games (like ground-stop, board games, frisbee), more classes, and then we’d talk for a while or played games again. Classes were always fun and casual, and could be serious too. The volunteers who led the classes treated us like equals and we would have very good discussions. PLC closes at 3 pm, but we can come and go as we please depending on our schedules and what we wanted to do.
Can you describe the mentoring process that you had at PLC? Who was your mentor and how would you describe your mentor?
Mentoring was basically me and them trying to figure out what I wanted to do, how to do it, and what I could do. I had Joel as my mentor my first year, Katy as my mentor for the second year, and Alison as my mentor for the last two years. My mentors would help me and push me to do things that were important to me and help me move forward. In my last year, Alison helped me with moving past PLC more.
What were some of the classes that you took at PLC that you found most helpful and useful?
I did photography for PLC for a few years; although, technically, it wasn’t a class. I had fun taking pictures and capturing moments in PLC. It also made me realize my talent for photography and Photoshop. They even use a lot of my photos on the site and for Facebook. Joel also asked me recently to spend a day at PLC to to take pictures because they needed newer images for the site.
How many years did you attend PLC and during those years, what were the things that you learned that you think you wouldn’t get if you didn’t go to PLC?
I attended PLC for about 3 and a half years. I learned that you don’t have to take the same old path as everyone else, that there are so many different options that no one talks about — not just in terms of school or work either. I also learned so many new skills, discovered my own talents, and learned to be more independent.
During your time at PLC, did you ever feel like you should’ve gone to a regular school? Why or why not?
I definitely did think “what if I just stayed in school,” and I still think about it as I’m moving forward. I don’t wish I had gone to school though. It’s more like wondering what would have gone differently. Would I still be interested in the same things? Would I be similar to how I am now? I think that I question myself more on taking the GED. I feel like I should have taken it sooner rather than waiting until now to do it. Overall, I know that I would have had a much harder time if I had stayed in school mentally and physically. So, I don’t wish I had gone through regular high school — even if I wonder about it and what would have been.
What is the next phase of your life after PLC? How has PLC prepared you for it?
This question is great because I’m still really thinking about it. I thought I’d go into an art school for the longest time so I had been preparing myself for that; however, the more I prepared myself, the more I realized that going to art school wouldn’t benefit me as much as I would like nor would it be as fun as I thought it would be. I’m thinking about going into nursing or occupational therapy now though. I’m going to get my GED soon and then enroll in a university (or transfer to one from a community college here). If I was still going to an art school, PLC would have definitely prepared me more than enough for it; however, with last minute change of plans, I’m still prepared, just not quite enough in the side of proper academics needed for nursing and/or OT. PLC has prepared me by making me think and act more independently, figure out my skill-set, taught me how to move forward past PLC, and overall just help shape me into who I am now. Alison also said that she would still help me along the way if I need it, and I will probably talk to her about university choices. I’m thinking about doing health and pre-med at Hampshire College. PLC also taught me that I don’t have to rush into university right after and that I have time.
Did you have Filipino relatives who questioned you about PLC? How would you explain PLC to them?
Nobody asked me about it, but they asked my parents. But, I would probably explain to them that it’s a group homeschooling in a facility with some adults who know what they’re doing helping out.
What did your parents think of PLC in the beginning and towards the end of your stay there?
I think that my parents were very iffy and confused about me going to PLC at first, but they also understood that traditional school wasn’t going to help me. I had to do online school at the start, alongside PLC. Eventually, I stopped doing that because it only made me more anxious and I wasn’t really benefiting from it at all. Towards the end, however, it’s a bit weird. When I was still in PLC, I wasn’t going as frequently as I used to — because of my SPD and just that I didn’t have as many classes. They were confident about my interests and desire to go into the art field and let me take classes outside PLC to further benefit me. But I also wasn’t planning on going to college at all which they didn’t really like. My plan was to get the GED done, do freelance work, and then go work at a company or something. I’m not sure how they felt about me just sitting around waiting until I could go to a GED class and get it done. We were kind of just chill about it. I got sick of waiting though and changed up my plan so much. So, we pretty much were, and are, just playing it as things happen. My interest in art and creating is still very much there, and they still support it, but I think that they more heavily support me going to college and fulfilling the Filipino nurse stereotype!
What was the most difficult thing for you about your time at PLC? What was the best thing?
The worst thing would have probably been me not taking it as seriously as I think I should have done — But that’s just hindsight. Otherwise, it would have been me not connecting with others and getting more involved. I regret not talking more and pushing myself more to do things. PLC teaches teens to be more independent and to step out of your comfort zone (in my opinion), and I didn’t take enough advantage of that. The best thing, on the other hand, would be tough to say… I guess the best thing would be that I learned so much about everything, became aware of so many things I didn’t know or understand before. Like, if I was in school, I would have been so sheltered and only concerned about homework and tests.
Do you think that something like PLC could exist in the Philippines? Why or why not?
I think that something like PLC could definitely exist and work well in the Philippines. I also think that it would be hard to get people to understand it fully and accept it because it’s so different. Traditional school is still so engrained into people’s minds and it would be hard to find people who will actively search for a different way. Once people learn about it, I think that it will become successful. I hope to see it work out well.