by Nathan Bass

Zahnib Kalsoom, a senior at Stuart, was awarded the highly competitive Posse Scholarship, and will receive a full tuition grant to attend Sewanee University in Tennessee.

The Posse Foundation, which supports the scholarship, was created to give high achieving students from diverse backgrounds a chance to excel in a vigorous collegiate experience. Kalsoom was picked from a group of students in DC and surrounding areas to attend Sewanee, a small private university hailed as “The University of the South” that has a yearly tuition of roughly $40,000. The foundation sends the ten students together and helps them form a relationship that will create a supportive network which will propel these students to stay in college and move on to possibly a graduate or professional degree.

The university designates a faculty member to be an advisor, specific to the Posse students, that helps with networking and general support. The program also rooms students in the program together.

In order to become a posse member, the student must be nominated by their high school or a community-based organization, and must be a senior in their first academic term. Kalsoom was nominated by Career Center Specialist Carol Kelley. “It is an incredibly arduous process,” Kelley  commented, “Students must be willing to devote a large amount of time to the process, going into D.C. multiple times for the interviews,” Kelley added that while it is a strenuous process, “it is worth the effort.”

After the interviews have concluded, and the winners of the scholarship are finally accepted, an award ceremony is held. “It was an inspiring event,” said Principal Penny Gros who attended the ceremony in D.C. in early January.

Gros elaborated on how many of the superintendents of counties that had winners chosen were in attendance and how “it really showed the prestige of the award.”

According to 30% of college students drop out after their first year and that percentage is only increased with lower socio-economic classes. Posse has picked out the problem of these dropouts to be an astonishing lack of dependence between students. Many students feel helpless and feel as though they are drowning in schoolwork, and creating a network of peers to help guide each student through these obstacles is a key part of keeping students in college.

Colleges are constantly attempting to gain a diverse population, full of people from different backgrounds, ethnicities and classes. Schools like Sewanee, a private university which has a 85% white population are always striving to find new ways to draw students of color. The Posse program creates a path for colleges to recruit a diverse student body.

While there are many scholarships that provide large grants towards college tuition, Posse truly approaches the problem of college dropouts from both the social and monetary sides. By helping students socially and financially Posse has established a strong force against college dropouts.

As the Posse mission statement reads, “As the United States becomes an increasingly multicultural society, Posse believes that the leaders of this new century should reflect the country’s rich demographic mix and that the key to a promising future for our nation rests on the ability of strong leaders from diverse backgrounds to develop consensus solutions to complex social problems.”