A 'posse' to help kids succeed

March 13, 2008 9:00:00 PM PDT
Some students are gaining valuable lessons before they head to college this fall. They're learning how to adjust and are given a "posse" of friends to lean on.And it seems to work. The program's members have a high graduation rate.

Education reporter Art McFarland has the story.

Playing pass the hoola-hoop is one way to help prepare for college, if you are a scholar of the Posse Foundation.

The idea is to encourage unity.

"I think it's essential because we're moving to a completely new environment that we've never experienced before," student Imani Golding said. "And we have each other to rely on."

The Posse Foundation was created in 1989, and the name has lot to do with what students experience, since groups of them go to college as a team.

One "Posse" is bound for Middlebury College in Vermont, which is one of more than two dozen colleges or universities offering full tuition scholarships to Posse scholars.

"To have 10 other people or 11 other people with you going...I love it because it's kind of like a family," student Luis Rivera said. "Taking your brothers and sisters along with you to college."

Deborah Bial started the Posse Foundation after running leadership programs in city high schools.

"I started Posse because of one student, this is 20 years ago, who said he never would have dropped out of college if he had had his posse with him," she said.

Minority students are well-represented among New York City's Posse scholars. But the national organization says it does not recruit based on race, and the scholars do not always have the highest standardized test scores or grade point averages.

"We're definitely looking for more than young people who are smart," Bial said. "We're also looking for young people who have tremendous leadership potential and motivation and desire to succeed."

"I think about it as four years of private education, that costs hundreds of thousands, that I would never have been able to pay for before," student Walter Stewart said.

The Posse Foundation says 90 percent of its scholars graduate from college.

The Posse Foundation

Peer mentoring is at the heart of the services the Posse Foundation provides. They are one of the most comprehensive college access and youth leadership development organizations in the country. Posse identifies, recruits and trains students from public high schools in six major cities, including New York City, and sends them to college in multicultural teams, or "Posses," to act as a support network for each other and to be catalysts of change on campus. As a result of the peer support they receive, they are able to excel at top-ranked institutions.

For more information, visit PosseFoundation.org.