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“We Are Here for Each Other”

Posse scholar Jessica Palacios (CAS’12) on making it through freshman year

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Click on the video above to hear Jessica Palacios (CAS’12) reflect on her first semester at BU.

Jessica Palacios, of Marietta, Ga., has a text message saved on her phone from a 14-year-old friend of the family back home.

“The message says, ‘I’m proud of you. I look up to you,’” saysPalacios (CAS’12), sweeping her long brown hair from her glasses. “Itgives me motivation. I don’t want to ruin that. I remember I used tolook up to a cousin and then she got pregnant, and I was like, oh,there’s nothing to look up to anymore. In my family, there’s thistendency that females get pregnant. I feel like I’m starting a newpattern. My younger sister’s doing really well in school, and I don’twant to let her down. I need to study harder.”

She is one of 12 Atlanta-bred first-year students — 9African-Americans, 2 Hispanics, and a Caucasian — who have beenguided to BU by the Posse Foundation, a national nonprofit scholarshipprogram that recruits and trains groups of talented and motivated urbanstudents — usually from public schools — for life on universitycampuses. The program aims to help a traditionally underrepresentedgroup of students succeed in college, and in so doing, to nurture a newgeneration of urban leaders. And from the perspective of BU and the 31 other colleges and universities that have joined theprogram, Posse does something essential: it brings highly qualifiedstudents of color to campus, helping these institutions become morerepresentative of America’s increasingly diverse demographics.

Palacios, wearing dark sweatpants and a Boston Universitysweatshirt, is relaxing after class in the Howard Thurman Center. Thisis her first semester; she is taking anthropology, writing, archaeology, and math,and she’s flirting with a double major in international relations andanthropology. She is volunteering in the elementary schools inneighboring Chelsea, which has a large Hispanic population. “When Iwent there, I was like, whoa — I kinda feel like I’m at home.” She saysshe’s still looking for authentic Mexican food in Boston and — in earlyNovember — is dreading the New England winter she’s heard so muchabout.

Palacios grew up in a small three-bedroom house in a dense Mariettaneighborhood with her younger sister, brother, great uncle, andparents, both Mexican immigrants. Her mom, Francisca, was pregnant withJessica when she came to America to join her husband, who was hereworking construction.

Palacios and fellow BU Posse scholar Juan Galvan (CAS’12) attendedMarietta’s R. L. Osborne High School together. During their freshmanyear, Galvan says, “There was at least one fight every day. There weregang fights all the time, there were race fights.”

Things calmed down by their junior year, in part because Palaciosand other student leaders began meeting monthly with parents and schoolstaff, hoping to engage the largely immigrant and non-English-speakingpopulation in their children’s education. “Once you change thementality of the parents, you see a difference in how their childrenreact,” Palacios says. “The parents didn’t really know how thingsworked, didn’t know what things like GPA meant.”

But how do you package such efforts for an admissions committee?Even though she graduated with a 4.0 GPA, Palacios is reluctant toreveal her SAT scores. “I did horrible,” she says, squirming in herchair. “But that shouldn’t hinder me from being successful at college.I know I can do well. Posse looks past that.”

This story originally appeared in the Winter 2008–2009 issue of Bostonia magazine.

Robin Berghaus can be reached at berghaus@bu.edu. Caleb Daniloff can be reached at cdanilof@bu.edu.

3 Comments

3 Comments on “We Are Here for Each Other”

  • Anonymous on 02.06.2009 at 11:56 am

    You are so adorable. I wish you lots of luck and a wonderful and healthy future in all you do.

  • Anonymous on 02.06.2009 at 12:37 pm

    Great story, good luck to all the posse scholars here at BU.

  • Steve Miletto on 02.15.2009 at 10:19 pm

    Keep up the good work!

    Jessica and Juan….I am proud of you both! Keep up the good work!
    SMiletto (Principal, OHS)

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