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Rassan Salandy of the Posse Foundation explains how one after school program works with universities and businesses to prepare high school students for success in college and beyond.

“I never would have dropped out of college if I'd had my posse with me.” That statement by a former student inspired the founding of The Posse Foundation in 1989. Since then, The Posse Foundation has sent over 1,500 public high school students—in multicultural teams called “posses”—to selective universities and colleges across the country. To date, Posse Scholars have won over $140 million in scholarships from Posse partner colleges and universities and are persisting and graduating at a rate of over 90%.

Building Relationships
Posse collaborates with public high school systems and community-based organizations (CBOs) in Boston, Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, and Washington, DC, to identify students of promise who, despite their abilities, may be overlooked by traditional college selection processes. Very often these are students whose SAT scores are less than competitive but who have demonstrated a serious commitment to their academic studies and exhibited extraordinary leadership qualities.

Posse has developed partnerships with 26 top-tier universities and colleges, which provide Posse Scholars with full-tuition scholarships, on-campus mentors, and valuable educational experience. Over the next decade, Posse expects its list of university partners to grow to include 80 of the best-ranked schools in the U.S.

Selecting Posse Scholars
Winning a Posse Scholarship is a highly competitive process, with roughly 6,500 candidates competing for 305 scholarship slots in 2005. First, representatives from Posse meet with high school college counselors and other administrators to discuss the program and to describe the type of student whom the program looks to serve. Then, high schools and CBOs in each of the five Posse sites nominate students who are beginning their senior year of high school.

Posse uses a unique evaluative tool—the Dynamic Assessment Process (DAP)—to identify the best candidates from among the nominees. DAP consists of large- and small-group interviews, in which students participate in interactive workshops designed to showcase their problem-solving skills and their ability to work in groups. DAP also incorporates individual interviews, in which students present their transcripts and discuss their academic and leadership histories. Through this interview process, a comprehensive picture of the student emerges—one that would be difficult to glean from transcripts, test scores, and essays alone.

In the last stage of DAP, The Posse Foundation assembles a finalist pool for each partner college. Each university partner selects a group of 10 scholarship recipients, who will make up a posse that will attend that university together beginning the following year. After the winners are announced, The Posse Foundation holds award ceremonies celebrating the newest scholarship recipients from each of its five sites.

Supporting Posse Scholars
One of Posse's distinctive features is the breadth of educational support it provides to Posse Scholars. An important component of this support is Posse's 8-month Pre-Collegiate Training Program. From January to August of their senior year in high school, Posse Scholars meet weekly with staff trainers and their peers at The Posse Foundation's site offices for a series of intensive training workshops designed to sharpen skills related to leadership, cross-cultural dialogue, team building, and academic excellence. The goal of the training program is to prepare Posse Scholars for the academic expectations of their colleges and for leadership roles on campus.

Posse further supports Scholars once they arrive on campus by making regular campus visits to meet with the students, their on-campus mentors, and university liaisons. In addition, Posse facilitates annual, weekend-long events, known as PossePlus Retreats, for each of its university partners. These retreats, which typically involve more than 100 participants, bring together members of the campus community—including Posse Scholars, college administrators, other students, and faculty members—to discuss important campus issues identified by Posse Scholars. In 2006, almost 2,000 people participated in these events across the nation.

Posse contributes to the professional development of its students through its Career Program, which assists Posse Scholars as they transition from their roles as campus leaders to leaders in the workforce. One of the ways the program achieves this is by partnering with exceptional companies and organizations, both nationally and abroad. Through these partnerships, Posse Scholars are offered internships and other career-enhancing opportunities.

How We Know That Posse is Effective
According to Posse President and Founder Deborah Bial, over 70% of Posse Scholars have either started new campus organizations or become presidents at existing organizations. The program has proven so effective that several universities now accept two Posse cohorts—20 students total—each year. Perhaps the greatest testaments to the program's success are the scores of Posse alumni who remark upon graduating from college, “I couldn't have done it without my posse.”

Rassan Salandy
Director of University and Public Relations
The Posse Foundation
14 Wall Street, Suite 8A-60
New York, NY 10005
Tel: 212-405-1691
Email: rassans@possefoundation.org

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