And Posse members are aware that their college communities may have little knowledge of what Posse is and how it works.
"People can't really understand it," said Jairus Steed '06, a member of Colby's first Posse and a graduate of New York's specialized and prestigious LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts. "It's not a race scholarship. So there's white kids in Posse. It's not a financial scholarship. There's rich kids in Posse. You never have to hand in something financial."
(This created a thorny issue for Colby, which does not award merit aid. "Ideally, the students would qualify financially for the full tuition scholarship," said Beverage in Admissions, "and perhaps they would qualify for additional financial aid, which of course we would give them because our policy is to meet the full financial need of any student we enroll.")
Posse member Zen Glasser '06 listens to a class lecture at Colby. Questions about Posse prompted Glasser to say, "We need some press."
Illustration by Fred Field
But if Posse is a race-blind and need-blind program, other students are not blind to the fact that many Posse students are African American, Latin American or Asian American. This ethnic and racial mix merely mirrors the demographics of New York City. But it also has buttressed misconceptions, especially at colleges like Colby, where Posse is new. "I really don't think a lot of kids knew what it was. Or that it was there," said Claire Jimenez '06. "It's a touchy subject because you think of Posse and lots of kids misunderstand what it is. They think of affirmative action and they think affirmative action is a scam. And then other words start to pop up. . . . I feel like a lot of it is that they misunderstand what diversity is."
In this case, diversity is a Colby student body that now includes more kids from New York City's public schools. Initially, those students may have little else in commonexcept that they have achieved academically and emerged as student leaders. According to Jimenez, that is the crux of the Posse message that hasn't gotten out. "I know a lot of the other kids [in Posse] really cared about emphasizing the fact that Posse is a merit scholarship and a leadership scholarship," she said.
Each one of these students is a scholar, says Sandra Sohne, former associate dean of admissions at Colby and now the mentor assigned to Posse 2 mentor at Colby. "They have earned the privilege to be here by virtue of the hard work they've done in high school, both in and out of the classroom."
Or as Zen Glasser '06, a Colby Posse 1 member, put it: "We don't want a pity party and we want people to know we well-earned our places at Colby."
The Posse Scholars who enrolled at Colby this year and last were winners in a marathon selection process that began nearly 18 months before they came to Mayflower Hill. More than 1,800 New York City high school juniors were nominated for Posse Scholarships by teachers, guidance counselors and leaders of civic organizations.
The whittling process involved three rounds of interviews, including a daylong activity session where students were watched carefully by Posse personnel, alumni and selected volunteers. "We're looking for leaders," said Russell Langsam, director of Posse New York. " But we define leaders in many different ways."