On Aug. 30, Wellesley College welcomed approximately 600 new students—including first-years, Davis Scholars and transfer students—to the campus. Ten of these students—Emely Larios, Paula DeAnda, Danielle Aldrett, May Liew, Nalleley Esparza, Abigail Parakoyi, Shania Baldwin, Kimberley Hernandez, Dayna De La Cruz and Izabelle Fernandez—formed a Posse. Posse is a program dedicated to providing college access to students who exhibit “extraordinary academic and leadership potential who may be overlooked by traditional college selection processes.”
The Posse Foundation joins several organizations, including Say Yes, Chicago Scholars, the Coalition for Access, Affordability and Success, the Ron Brown Scholar Program and QuestBridge in connecting students with the College.
Founded in 1989, the Posse Foundation has been recognized by President Barack Obama in an interview in The Chronicle of Higher Education as a means to enrich diversity on college campuses. In 2010, the foundation received $125,000 of Obama’s $1.4 million Nobel Peace Prize money for their “extraordinary work in the United States…helping students, veterans and countless others in need”.
“[Wellesley sees] the mission of Posse, to diversify the leadership of America’s top cities and the nation, as one that aligns well with [our] mission to develop leaders,” said Dean of Admission and Financial Aid Joy St. John.
The foundation has partnerships with multiple campuses. This year marks the first in a five-year pilot of the STEM Posse Program at Wellesley.
“[Wellesley] also [has] been looking for opportunities to increase the persistence of underrepresented students in certain disciplines, including the sciences,” St. John continued.
The process to become a member of a Posse begins with a nomination from the high school by a teacher of counselor. Izabelle Fernandez ’21 described the lengthy interview process.
“[The f]irst round was being interviewed in a room filled with exactly 100 other students…Many of the activities they had us do was [sic] catered towards allowing many different kinds of strengths to be shown such as teamwork abilities, listening, leading, writing, etc.” The interview process followed with a much more personal component, requiring applicants to “perform or present a talent.” The final round occurred after Wellesley had chosen 20 students. 10 would go on to be Posse I. According to Fernandez, “the interview process was very similar to the first round interview with all the group discussion and activities.”
After the interview, chosen Posse members undergo pre-college training. The Posse meets with trainers from their home city
weekly for various activities and to have discussions on a variety of topics including socio-economic status, cross-cultural communication, budgeting in college, gender and sexuality.
Students chosen for the Posse program receive four-year, full-tuition leadership scholarships. While this contradicts Wellesley’s need-based-only aid policy, Dean St. John stated that “we expect that it will be rare for us to award a Posse scholarship beyond the amount of aid we would have awarded a student through our regular, need-based aid policies.” She mentioned that the College “received an outside grant to offset some of the costs of a pilot STEM Posse program.”
Posse guarantees a full-tuition scholarship, not a full-need scholarship. As opposed to QuestBridge, another scholarship foundation dedicated to providing college financial access to low-income students, Posse provides only enough to cover the tuition and fees while QuestBridge also covers room and board, books, supplies and travel expenses. A distinguishing feature is the fact that Posse awards scholarships to groups of students in the same area so that the Posse can find support in individuals with familiar experiences.
Wellesley’s Posse 1 hails from Houston, Texas, which was chosen because of Wellesley’s desire to “strengthen its recruitment pipeline in regions experiencing significant population growth and increasing racial and ethnic diversity,” according to Dean St. John. Unfortunately for a number of the Posse, Hurricane Harvey delayed their arrival onto campus for up to a week.
The Posse Foundation aims to develop leaders to represent different demographics in an “increasingly multicultural society.” To Fernandez, Posse has given her a chance “to give back to Wellesley by bringing in a better sense of diversity, not just in ethnicity but in class, socio-economic status, religion and passion.”