Posse Program Is the Gift That Keeps on Giving

Ten Posse Scholars will graduate in May. They are shown here at a 2013 “Posse plus” retreat, minus two who were studying abroad.

Twenty-five years ago, Deborah Bial created the Posse Foundation, a nationwide program linking colleges and universities with public high schools to provide opportunities for outstanding students who might otherwise be overlooked.

The organization sends “posses,” or teams of students from the same area who give one another support, to attend elite colleges and universities together. Each student receives a full tuition scholarship and special mentoring.

Mount Holyoke’s first Posse Scholars came from the Miami area four years ago and the first Posse graduating class will be part of commencement this May. So it is especially appropriate that Bial, Posse’s founder and president, will give this year’s commencement address.

"Posse is the gift that keeps on giving,” says Posse liaison Diane Anci, vice president of enrollment and dean of admission. “The lives of individual scholars are touched in deep and meaningful ways.” There have been posses for each of the past four years, and the next group of scholars will arrive with the class of 2018.

“The presence of Posse scholars on campus enriches the Mount Holyoke community, positioning all to contribute to the greater good and make the world a better place," Anci says.

Meet the Posse

The graduating Posse Scholars—11 in all—include Scarlett Montenegro, a politics major with a minor in law, public policy, and human rights; Ana Cesar, a sociology major with a minor in global business; and Viviana Mauri, another sociology major, with minors in journalism, media, and public discourse, and film studies.

Montenegro says that through courses on such topics as the politics of minority rights, she realized how much help communities like hers need. “It was through those courses that I really found my voice,” she says.

Posse Scholars are encouraged to focus on civic engagement work, and to that end Montenegro is taking a year off while she considers whether to attend law school or pursue a master’s in public policy.

She participates in the Community-Based Learning Program, which links MHC students with nearby communities, while Michelle Espinosa and Samantha Campagna are mentors in a program called ”RUN the World, Girls.” It was launched by Espinosa last year, and introduces high school and middle school girls to potential career paths and college opportunities.

Montenegro says that having come from an area with a high population of Latinos, she experienced culture shock in New England. But she and other Posse Scholars mention the mentoring they received from Tanya Williams, formerly MHC’s coordinator of multicultural affairs. For the first two years, Williams met with the group every week, and with individuals every other week.

Ana Cesar, meanwhile, says she loves the small classes and the diversity on campus. “I have been able to meet people from every part of the world,” she says. “I love that I can have intense conversations about everything. It’s interesting to hear peoples’ stories, and that translates into the classroom too.”

Cesar is interested in international business. She plans to take a year off before applying to business school.

And Viviana Mauri has pursued her interest in news and entertainment by hosting the campus radio show "Crystal and Vivi After Dark" and serving on the Student Government Association committee that helped organize the College’s 175th anniversary celebration, among other activities.

Mauri has been admitted to Carnegie Mellon University, where she will pursue graduate studies in entertainment industry management. She credits the Career Development Center’s support in planning her next step after graduation. “You’re encouraged to reflect on your experiences and see how you’ll make sense of them,” she says.

The other Posse Scholars graduating this year are Crystal Reed, Candy Gonzalez, Jazmin Locke, Gabriela Concha-Fernandez, Jacqueline Oberlander, and Niani Tolbert.

—By Ronni Gordon