Forging a Bright Future
By Candace Shelton (’14); Photo by Dot Paul
The Posse Foundation makes college scholarships and other kinds of support available to inner-city students with superior academic and leadership potential. This is one Posse student’s story.
In September 2009, I was a high school senior unsure of her future. Sitting in classrooms in Atlanta’s DeKalb School of the Arts, I became more nervous as the days wore on and I still hadn’t secured an acceptance to college. I had only applied to a few schools, and I had no idea which would be the best for me. Boston wasn’t yet in my thoughts. Also, I knew that paying for college would be a challenge for my parents. Essentially, I had no clear plan for after graduation, and only a few months to make one. So senior year began full of uncertainty and worry.
A meeting with my guidance counselor changed everything. After Lauri Benton called me into her office, I confided in her that I was very nervous about life after high school because I didn’t know how I was going to pay college tuition. I sat in front of her in tears. After consoling me, and looking over my test scores and grades, Mrs. Benton told me about the Posse Atlanta Scholarship, a four-year, full-tuition scholarship to Boston University, Brandeis, Syracuse, Bard College or the College of Wooster. She had nominated me for it, and the first interview was just days away.
“I want you to do this,” she said. “You have a really good chance.” I had no other likely scholarship offers, so I didn’t think twice about applying for this one. I immediately entered the Posse selection process.
The first interview took place in late September at Atlanta’s Centennial Tower. Mrs. Benton nominated many students from our school, so I took comfort from the familiar faces at the interview, which was like no other. Instead of the usual format of an interviewer asking a candidate difficult questions one-on-one, this was more like a giant game consisting of about sixty students. We were split up into small groups and assigned team-building activities such as constructing Lego buildings. All the while, people with clipboards posted around the room wrote notes about how we all interacted with one another.
Soon, I was invited to a second interview, a conventional one-on-one, and asked to bring two items that were important to me. I was more uneasy this time. But dressed in my best suit, I walked into the interview room carrying the first pair of pointe shoes that I ever danced in, and the first video project I completed for a mass media class. The interview went well.
Finally, I was asked to participate in the third round of interviews, complete with representatives from BU Admissions. When I received the letter announcing this fact, my mother broke into tears. “But I haven’t gotten it yet, Mom,” I said.
“I know, but I’m just so happy you’ve made it this far.”
At the last interview, the Posse staff informed us remaining participants that the final decision would be made that very evening, and that the winners would receive a phone call later the same night. I left nervous and wondering if the other students were more prepared than me. Also, I had an AP Biology test the next day that I didn’t feel ready for. At about 11 p.m., I still hadn’t received a phone call. Tired, I decided to just go to bed.
I woke the next morning at 6:30 a.m. with the interview still on my mind. Immediately, I checked my voice mail. The Posse staff had sent me a message, saying that I should call them back at 10 a.m., and that they had something very important to tell me. I ran and woke up my parents, and we had a mini-celebration in our kitchen. At school, I twitched in my seat until 10 a.m. At 10, I called the Posse office on my phone from the restroom, but there was no answer. At around 10:30, I ran to my counselor and begged her to call.
“All right. Just calm down,” Mrs. Benton said. She dialed, and put the speaker phone on.
“Is this Candace?” I heard.
“Yes,” I replied.
“We just wanted to tell you . . . that you are officially a member of Boston University’s Posse 3!”
The entire Posse staff cheered and applauded over the phone. I must have thanked them 10 times before I hung up. In an instant, I called my mom.
“I can’t even tell you how proud I am of you,” she said.
My training as a Posse Scholar soon began. Posse Atlanta chose nine other students for the BU scholarship. Every Wednesday from January to August, I met with my “Posse” and spoke about subjects concerning college students, such as time management, cross-cultural communication and how to make a college experience unique. These sessions also helped to form a bond among the members of the Posse. In addition, the training included a BU campus visit and a summer retreat. I would leave Atlanta to begin my freshman year at BU on August 25. When the day finally came, my mother, stepfather and I left for the airport and were in Boston that evening.
At Orientation and during the first weeks of classes, I met some of the best friends that I’ve ever had. Everything was exciting in those early days on my own in Boston. All of the back-to-school events, living on the COM floor in Warren Towers, attending seminars and talks by notables such as Spike Lee, and being able to explore a new city were all unforgettable experiences in my freshman year. I even got to see President Obama speak at the Hynes Convention Center in October.
One of the most exciting things was working at the Daily Free Press, BU’s student-run newspaper. My first article appeared on the front page on September 20, 2010.
While working on the newspaper, I got to cover topics such as crime in Boston, Somerville’s famous Fluffernutter festival, the Manhattan mosque controversy, the MBTA, and BU’s Alumni Weekend. Not only did the experience improve my writing skills, but being able to explore Boston and meet new people also molded me into a more well-rounded person. I developed the ability to write and tell stories about almost anything.
However, the newspaper’s rigorous schedule began to distract me from my academic pursuits, so I decided to cease writing for the Freep. I did find a campus news outlet that better fit my schedule: WTBU, the student radio station. All spring, I read local, national and international news on the air every Friday night. The experience helped me hone my public-speaking skills and make new friends with similar interests.
All in all, I could not have asked for a better freshman year. It was truly an amazing and life-changing experience, and I have done nothing but thrive in Boston. I learned so many things and met so many people, and I have no regrets about any of the mistakes I’ve made along the way. With these new experiences under my belt, I am ready and determined to forge a bright college career and future for myself.