The colleges and Posse Scholars benefit, said Parker Beverage, Colby dean of admissions. "It gave us a little bit more outreach into areas where we're not known and we'd like to be known. And I think the Posse kids gain an opportunity that they might not have been exposed to. Chances are that a place like Colby or Bowdoin or Middlebury might not have been in the constellation of schools they would have been thinking about."
Or as Sarah Burke, a trainer with Colby's second Posse group, put it: "We run through our schools real quick and the only ones that send off any signals at all are Brandeis, sometimes, and occasionally they know Vanderbilt, because of the sports. They're just not on their radar."
That changes very quickly.
Consider Dan Lin '07, who arrived in New York City with his father three years ago from China (his mother had arrived in New York earlier). A slight young man with an earnest, direct manner, he enrolled in Manhattan Comprehensive Night and Day High School on the Lower East Side. The school has about 800 students80 percent immigrants, representing more than 30 countries.
Dan Lin '07 on a street corner in Chinatown in New York City. Lin spent the summer working in Chinatown. when this photo was taken, he had just left work and, days before leaving for Colby, was "trying to store som memorable images of the place I had lived for years."
Illustration by Andrew Lichtenstien
Lin and other Posse Scholars, as they are called by the program, are asked to choose three schools among the colleges affiliated with their respective Posse programsin Lin's case, the nine colleges that are part of Posse New York. Though he'd never heard of Colby, Lin hit the Web sites and college guides and came away impressed. "Colby's rank is very high," he said, "one of the best."
Jia Chen '06, a member of "Colby Posse 1" and the oldest daughter in a family that came to the U.S. from China in 1997, queried co-workers and supervisors at the branch of the New York Public Library where she worked in high school. They were "very positive" about Colby, and Chen made her choice. She's now a sophomore majoring in economicsthe first person in her family to go to college.
But already readers trying to craft a definition for Posse may be forming stereotypesand they just don't mirror reality.
Colby's Posse Scholars include a gifted musician whose older siblings went to Williams and Swarthmore. There is a daughter of a veterinarian and a young man who wants to support his mother, a single parent who is ill and unable to work. They include a first-year student who already has studied at Oxford and captained his football team, and another who, if she hadn't been accepted to Colby Posse, was going to apply to St. Louis Universityin Madrid. One student was the YMCA Teen Volunteer of the Year for New York State, selected from 170,000 nominees. Another traveled with a friend to India to make a documentary on child prostitutionwhen they were 16.
"There are so many misconceptions about the [Posse] Foundation," said Posse New York's Ramon Castillo, who worked with the second Colby group weekly for eight months prior to their arrival in Waterville. "That Posse is a minority scholarship or Posse is a need-based scholarship . . . . Some high schools, just by thinking that, cause us to miss out on great students. They think if you're a great student but you're white, you won't be able to get into the Posse program."