Posse Foundation Students Selected for Class of 2012
BU partners with Atlanta schools to help urban youth succeed in college
On Tuesday, December 11, on stage in an auditorium in the GeorgiaPacific building in downtown Atlanta, 12 inner-city high schoolseniors — the newest members of the class of 2012 — wriggled intoBoston University sweatshirts.
The ceremony marked the launch of a partnership between BU and the Posse Foundation,a national nonprofit program that recruits and trains groups oftalented, leadership-oriented urban high-school students for life atcolleges and universities around the country. Members of the posses, asthey’re called, mostly come from the same public school system. Theidea is simple: send a small team of like-minded kids from similarbackgrounds to campus and they can “back each other up” in what can bea bewildering new world.
“Posse has a tremendous track record,”says Laurie Pohl, the vice president for enrollment and student affairsat BU. “Posse kids graduate from some of the best schools in thecountry, at greater than 90 percent, well above the national averagefor students from any population.”
The Posse Foundation is the brainchild of Deborah Bial,an education strategist and MacArthur Foundation genius grantrecipient. In the late 1980s, Bial became alarmed by the number ofinner-city kids quitting college — often intelligent, talented studentswho felt culturally and racially isolated at school. One told Bial atthe time, “I never would have dropped out if I had my posse with me.”Since 1989, the Posse Foundation has placed 1,850 students in top-tierinstitutions, representing more than $175 million in scholarships.
Pohland several representatives from BU admissions flew to Atlanta to jointhe students and their families, friends, guidance counselors, andprincipals for the awards banquet. The previous week, they’d finalizedthe team of 12 scholars, some of them the first in their families toattend college. The selection process involves a comprehensiveassessment tool developed by the Posse Foundation, as well asinterviews conducted by administrators from the participatinguniversity.
“These students are highly accomplished,” Pohl says,“but they’re in high school environments where the opportunities justaren’t available to really challenge and push them. If you look attheir test scores, they’re going to be flying below the radar ofselective institutions.”
Jamal Rasheed, a senior at W. D.Mohammed High School in east Atlanta, says his SATs were merely averageand didn’t accurately reflect who he was.
“That’s the thingabout Posse,” says Rasheed, who plans to pursue electrical engineeringand art at BU and wants to get involved in baseball, soccer, andcommunity service. “They see the person, not a bunch of test scores.”
Rasheed and the other BU-bound students represent one of two inaugural posses from Atlanta. The second group is bound for the College of Wooster in Ohio. The Posse Foundation also recruits students in Boston, New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Washington, D.C.
“Wejust opened our doors in June,” says Charisse Williams, director ofPosse Atlanta. “And we received more than 500 nominations from Atlantapublic schools and two dozen community-based organizations.”
Anintense eight-month training program, beginning in January, willprepare the posse scholars for campus life and strengthen their bond.They will take part in workshops that focus on team building,cross-cultural communication, leadership, and academic excellence. Onceon campus, the posse will meet regularly with a university mentor.
ShaylithiaCopeland, born and raised in downtown Atlanta, is a senior from CarverHigh School. She says she thinks having backup from her peers will makeadjusting to a new city and school environment less daunting, allowingher to focus on academic opportunities.
“BU is a big school andhaving a posse with you makes all the difference,” she says. “For a lotof kids, when they’re pulled away from their friends and family anddon’t have that same support structure anymore, it can feel like ‘MaybeI need to be at home where everybody else is.”’
Posse’slong-term goal is to create leaders to represent America’s robustmulticultural urban centers and help find solutions to complex socialproblems. As a group, minorities are increasing faster than thenonminority population — the self-identified Hispanic populationaccounted for almost half of a 2.9 million person boom between 2005 and2006 — and currently represent one-third of the country’s population,according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
Pohl says the Posse program fits with other BU efforts to enhance diversity on campus. BU plans to take a posse every fall.
“Thesestudents really have some amazing stories, not only what they’veovercome, but what they’ve accomplished,” Pohl says. “But this is whatBU is all about, providing access to the highest quality education.”
Caleb Daniloff can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org Comments