Things like COOT, the kickoff Colby Outdoor Orientation Trips for first-year students. "Camping?" said Glasser, who grew up in the Canarsie section of Brooklyn and was a standout in her 1,000-strong class at Edward R. Murrow High School. "We don't go camping. I've never been camping. What is that? It's a totally different life."
When you're away from home and family for the first time, for any student those differences add up.
"Homesickness?" said Chen, the Posse 1 member from Chelsea in lower Manhattan. "Oh, my god. I don't want to talk about it. I cried for so many nights. So I called [my parents] at the beginning of the first semester. And I just can't help it. My tears just fall down. I had to hang up. And then get ready, call again. Hang up. . . . Why am I crying? I'm not sad. I just missed them so, so much."
Victoria Caicedo '07 working with kids at the Long Island City YMCA of Greater New York. Caicedo's dedication to children was recognized when she was named Volunteer of the Year and Teen of the Year for the New York YMCAs.
Illustration by Andrew Lichtenstien
Homesickness is just one of the potential pitfalls that Posse training is designed to head off. At a session in a spare conference room at the Posse offices in July, Castillo and Ramon Marmolejos, the Posse New York career program coordinator, led activities that probed the Colby Posse members' feelings about the relative importance of family, about their definition of success and prestige. Some students said they hoped to support their parents financially someday; some said they wanted careers that would contribute to a community.
The self-examination had two purposes: to start students thinking about the academic track that could lead them toward career goals and to encourage self-examination that will allow them to better know themselves as they head into a new environment. Marmolejos, 25, a New Yorker of Dominican descent who left a fast-track marketing job at Pepsi to work for Posse, later said he knew what some students would be feeling. As a freshman at the University of Pennsylvania, and the first person in his family to go to college, he felt like an outsider when he arrived on campus. "You ask yourself, then who am I?"
Or you grow weary of explaining, said Glasser, who, as the only white student in Colby Posse 1, found herself explaining the program to other students over and over. "'Why are you here?' Immediately not only do I have to defend myself but I have to defend the Posse program."
Glasser said she and other Posse 1 members came to Mayflower Hill not wanting to be singled out but soon changed their minds. "People kept on asking us, 'What are you? Who are you?' . . . We were, like, 'You know what? We need some press.'"
Beverage and other Colby administrators hope misunderstandings about Posse will be just "bumps in the road" and that ultimately Colby's Posse experience will be similar to that of Bowdoin and Middlebury. "Their experiences have been pretty good," Beverage said. "The kids have come, they've persisted, done their work, made contributions to the campus community. They've held leadership positions and helped to generally raise the consciousness of the community." Six members of Posse 1 made the Dean's List first semester last year; four made it second semester.