Posse Scholars Take a Satisfying Bite out of Campus
Atlanta high school seniors pack meetings, dorm life, FitRec into 24-hour visit
For some, the trip to Boston marked their first plane ride, for others their first blast of hood-raising weather. For high school senior Sharrod McClusky, it was the Pad Thai, burgers, and desserts that made the most immediate impression.
“I could get used to this,” said McClusky, seated at a long cafeteria table in Warren Towers, the Citgo sign glowing against a gray sky through the window.
McClusky is one of 12 Atlanta-area high school students who will attend BU next fall thanks to a partnership between the University and the Posse Foundation, a national nonprofit program that recruits and trains groups of talented, leadership-oriented urban youth for life at colleges and universities around the country. The Atlanta posse, Boston University’s inaugural group, visited campus last week for a whirlwind 24-hour tour. Despite a packed schedule — college visits, meetings, dorm activities, breakfast with University President Robert A. Brown, a trip to FitRec — their enthusiasm never flagged.
“From walking off the airplane, everything’s been so fresh and new,” said Shaylithia Copeland, a senior at Atlanta’s Carver School of Entrepreneurship, who plans to attend the College of Communication and would like to work in the entertainment industry, perhaps as a music producer.
The Posse groups mostly come from the same school system. The idea is to send a small team of like-minded kids from similar backgrounds, called posses, to a college campus, where they can “back each other up” in what can be a bewildering new world. The Posse Foundation has so far placed 1,850 students in top-tier institutions, representing more than $175 million in scholarships from the host universities.
One stop for the Atlanta scholars was the Howard Thurman Center, where they met with Dean of Students Kenneth Elmore. There, the students were not shy about voicing their aspirations.
“One of the things I intend to do when I attend Boston University is become student body president and start a talk show,” said McClusky, who will attend the College of Arts and Sciences, and ultimately wants to be a pediatrician.
Others talked about designing electrical circuits for Apple, starting a business, working in animation, and launching a campus chapter of Civil Rights Education and Art Towards Empowerment (CREATE), a Latin-American leadership program.
“One of the things that makes these kids really stand out is their boldness,” said Jacqueline Forbes, the program director for Posse Atlanta, who accompanied the group.
All of the students are currently enrolled in an intense eight-month training program, intended to prepare them for campus life, and at the same time strengthen their bond. Posse’s long-term goal is to nurture leaders who will go on to represent America’s multicultural urban centers and help find solutions to complex social problems.
Elmore told the group they were coming to the right place, and not just academically. “You will see a range of cultural programs and events that will be beyond anything you could imagine,” he said. “The hard part is making time in your schedule to check them all out. I truly hope you will learn what garba is, and know how to do the bhangra one day. I hope you will hear the sights and sounds of places like Cuba and Argentina. I hope you eat foods you’ve never eaten before, hope you smell things you’ve never smelled before.”
The Posse scholars spent the night with BU students in dorms around campus. “It was awesome,” Copeland said. “I stayed on West Campus in Rich Hall with my host, Tajah Ross (CGS’08). I absolutely loved the living conditions and homey feel and how everyone on the floor called themselves family.”
“My impressions of BU definitely differed from what I expected,” she added. “Because my group is made up of mostly minority students, I thought the campus would be a little less willing to accept us as peers. But those misconceptions quickly dissipated after so many students walked up to us and introduced themselves, telling us that they’d heard of our foundation.”
Shamikhah Dean, senior assistant director of admissions, who joined the group during their visit to BU, said she found the scholars’ intellectual curiosity and adventurousness inspiring.
“Being with them just reminded me why I got into higher education,” she said.
Caleb Daniloff can be reached at email@example.com.