Merriam Webster defines the word posse as “a group of people who have come together for the same purpose.” It is a broad definition, but a fitting one for members of Wellesley’s pioneering class of Posse scholars (“Posse 1”), who work toward a common goal that serves as the impetus by which they contribute to Wellesley’s culture of diversity and inclusivity.
Danielle Aldrett, Shania Baldwin, Paula DeAnda, Dayna De La Cruz, Nallely Esparza, Izabelle Fernandez, Kimberly Hernandez, Emely Larios, May Liew and Abigail Parakoyi are the 10 members of Posse 1, set to graduate in Spring 2021, who were honored with the 2020 Camellia Student Leadership Award for Inclusive Leadership. Named after the camellia flowers gifted to Wellesley by founders Henry and Pauline Durant, the Camellia Awards are an annual designation given to those who have shown outstanding initiative and achievement in their growth as leaders.
“I am so grateful to share this award with nine amazing individuals, and also very thankful for everyone that nominated and voted for us,” Parakoyi said. “I think it really also encourages us to see that the little things that we’re doing as a ragtag team of 10 does have an impact and is being seen by the college and administration.”
The Posse Foundation is a non-profit organization that provides full-ride scholarships to high school seniors. In addition to undergoing a rigorous application process that includes interviews and interactive group activities to determine one’s fit in each “posse,” each prospective member also must receive a nomination to be considered. Once selected, the members of each Posse participate in weekly bonding sessions that recur until their first semester of college.
“We spent eight months together before even stepping foot on campus, so we really fostered our friendship. It was really great, coming to college with a Posse,” Parakoyi said. “I now have these friends that will really support me, who know what I need and understand where I’m coming from. I’ve garnered a lot of lifelong friends from Posse, and after graduation, I know that I can always have someone to support me or teach me something new.”
As the first Posse to graduate from Wellesley, the group has the unique ability to set the precedent for what it means to be a Posse Scholar on Wellesey’s campus. While the Posse Foundation itself allows for freedom and creativity in the methods by which Posse Scholars engage in the implementation of diversity and inclusion tactics at Wellesley, the annual Posse Plus Retreats allow for greater engaging discussions on current events that can be applicable to a college environment.
“We’re really influenced to have difficult conversations with one another and be open to different viewpoints,” Parakoyi said. “For example, we want to bring someone who has a more conservative view on life. And we also want to pick someone who [is] somewhat liberal because we as a Posse felt we kind of put ourselves in a bubble. By including those who may not have the same outlook as us, we were really able to have these conversations with someone who has a different perspective.”
Tasked with the distinct mission to make a tangible difference on Wellesley’s campus, Posse 1 engages in both individual and group initiatives to ensure inclusivity in the classroom. Posse 1 is part of the foundation’s STEM program, meaning that all of its members are committed to pursuing careers in science, technology, engineering and math, while promoting inclusivity within these fields.
“I’ve become one of the many student representatives that the biochemistry department has, and they’ve developed mentor and mentee programs as a result of the work done by members of Posse 1,” Fernandez said. “I definitely have to credit Kimberly Hernandez for laying this foundation in the physics department, and in general it’s just incredible to see the impact that’s being done interdepartmentally.”
Hernandez has enacted sweeping changes within the physics department as the diversity inclusion representative, and later as president of the Physics Club, mainly focusing on greater inclusivity for Latinx students and other students of color within STEM. The group also participates in the annual Posse Collegiate Training conference, a national event that takes place over the course of a weekend in January that exposes members to the different ways in which they can contribute to a more welcoming Wellesley community.
“It was like normal to feel the pressure,” Fernandez said. “A lot of us were able to see what was lacking in our community through the training that we did. They really emphasized to us what an inclusive campus should look like. They encouraged us to think outside of the box. When presented with a difficult scenario, we were forced to think about what we would’ve done to mitigate it, and it definitely really helped with the vision of Wellesley we had in our minds.”
This article is a continuation of this piece from 2017.