Posse Program alumni Monique Nelson works to make an impact with her multicultural marketing firm, UniWorld. / Provided
Thanks to the Posse Foundation, high-achieving high schoolers who may have otherwise fallen through the cracks are getting a chance at higher education. Through the program’s partner colleges and universities, students admitted into 10-person Posse groups attend participating schools and rely on their multicultural teams and mentors for support.
Deborah Bial, Ed.D., Posse president and founder, explains, “The Posse Foundation was founded on the simple idea that the right kind of support system—in this case, a Posse—can have a dramatic impact on a student’s success in college.”
A dramatic impact indeed. Since its inception in 1989, the Posse Foundation has sent 5,500 students to college and awarded $670 million in scholarships. In fact, the program was recently mentioned by President Obama in his State of the Union Address. Estiven Rodriguez, a student at Washington Heights Expeditionary Learning School, attended as First Lady Michelle Obama’s guest. He’s headed to Dickinson College this fall.
Rodriguez is among the thousands to enter the program which has produced loyal alumni such as Ronald Germán, who is a senior associate at State Street Corporation in Boston and graduated Hamilton College in 2013 with a degree in Hispanic studies. Over in Brooklyn, Posse Foundation alumni puts her degree from Vanderbilt University to work as the chairman and CEO of the multicultural marketing company, UniWorld Group. Ryan Letada, a 2008 graduate of Wheaton College thanks to the Posse Program, is the co-founder of NextDayBetter in New York City. We checked in with this posse of leaders to ask how the program shaped their experiences.
How has this program changed your life?
Germán: “Posse gave me the means to successfully achieve a first-rate education and it provided opportunities to develop my leadership potential both on campus and in the professional world.”
Nelson: “It has given me the ability to seamlessly work with others; to inform and to educate; to make sure there is a win-win scenario most of the time; and to always remember that the most valuable assets of any organization are the people and the culture.”
Letada: “Posse's network of mentors, scholars and supporters challenged me to truly follow and own my passion. I am a social entrepreneur today because of Posse Foundation. I am using my business acumen and creativity to help solve the most pressing societal problems facing diaspora communities like the Philippines.”
What advice would you give to high school students now in the program?
Germán: “Posse is more than just the scholarship money. The relationships that one creates, the professional exposure one obtains and the leadership skills that one develops exceed the financial benefits.”
Nelson: “Experience everything, make an impact no matter how small and have fun doing it.”
Letada: “Once in a while, put yourself in situations when you are the dumbest person in the room. It's humbling and will challenge you to learn and grow personally and professionally more quickly.”
What's one opportunity the Posse program gave you that's not related to college?
Germán: “Meeting the former Mayor of Boston, Thomas M. Menino. He served the city for two decades and is a true champion of Posse.”
Nelson: “A connection to a great mentor in my field.”
Letada: “I joined a group of Posse scholars to raise funds that helped establish a computer clinic in the Philippines. This was my first soiree into social good work internationally which fueled my passion for social entrepreneurship.”