Every so often the year starts with a bang, and last night sixty-two high school seniors rocked it.
For the last four years I have worked with an organization called the Posse Foundation, which works with universities across the country (and students in seven cities) to provide full tuition scholarships for the next generation of leaders. It started when one of Deborah Bial’s students told her that “I never would have dropped out of college if I had my posse with me,” and today the organization is founded on the “belief that a small, diverse group of talented students—a Posse—carefully selected and trained, can serve as a catalyst for increased individual and community development.” Many of you may have first heard about the organization last year when President Obama donated part of his Nobel Prize winnings to this worthy cause.
Last night was the 2011 Posse celebration ceremony for this years scholarship recipients. It is the moment when each Posse meets supporters from their future college/university (the DC schools are: Lafayette, Bucknell, Pepperdine, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Sewanee (University of the South), and Grinnell) and rousing cheers from other Posse’s currently at said universities. They are, after all, about to become a part of the family.
This year we not only heard about an amazing alumni Loubens Theork who graduated from Hamilton College and started a scholarship program for Haitian children (and he will be using 10k from this year’s Alumni Achievement Award towards this program), but we learned that every single one of the sixty-two students has already proven themselves to be leaders in their communities, schools and families. What is even more remarkable is that fifty percent of these students will now be the first in their families to attend college.
I know that is something that a lot of people throw around, but even from my seat in the back I could feel the pride in the room. As parents and grandparents called out in joy for their daughter, grandson, brother, sister these men and women represented, as Frank Sesno the Posse D.C. Advisory Board Chair stated, that something that had gone right.
My role in Posse is after the celebration, when Posse preps students for their entry into the collegiate environment. For four years I’ve worked as a writing coach and have found it fulfilling, exhilarating and have developed my own sense of pride for these students who continue to work hard even after they graduate.
This is what I find so inspiring about this organization. The relationship with the students does not stop with the money, but rather continues well beyond the four year college experience. A full support system. I always walk away from this ceremony wanting to be more and to do more. One of the university liasons from Grinnell told these students that this honor “was yours from the beginning.” And he was right, because that statement emphasizes that every accomplishment we have ever recieved is a consequence of our families and our own decisions along the way. We make it happen.
One final thought. The motto of Lafayette College comes from the words of the 19th year old Marquis de Lafayette who left France to fight for the colonial revolutionaries. When asked why he chose to fight he answered“Cur Non”, or “Why Not?”. So this year, anytime you are faced with a challenge, or anytime I am faced with a choice I’m going to remember these sixty-two students and ask–Why Not and try to make a difference.
Congratulations Posse Class of 2011!