The Word on Posse: What Posse Is and What It Isn't

Colby is enrolling top students from New York City, who arrive as Colby's Posse. Read all about them, and the fast-growing Posse program.

By Gerry Boyle '78

Mid-afternoon on a Tuesday in July in an office seven floors above the hustle of Wall Street, a group of high school seniors is kicking back. They're from all over New York,Brooklyn, Harlem, Chelsea, Chinatown,and are as varied as the crowds on a Manhattan sidewalk. One has been in the U.S. only three years; some have been in America their entire lives. One works in a Chinatown insurance office; another in a Park Avenue investment firm. They made their way to Wall Street by ferry, train and bus, pulled up chairs and within minutes were bantering like old friends.

About their visit to Colby in April, in a small plane that took off in a rainstorm. ("At least it wasn't snow. You'd see ten Posse kids parachuting back.")

About how cold it will be in Maine. ("Wear clothes. It's not like they haven't invented the jacket.")

About the short-lived escape of Pedro, the pet pig owned by Colby President William Adams. ("Who did he think he was, Free Willie?")

The jokes and comments flow with an easy familiarity, as if the students are jamming musicians who have played together for a long time. "We're more than just friendly," said Rebecca Travis '07. "We have friendships."

This is "Posse 2," the name given the second group of 10 students to enter Colby through the Posse Foundation, an urban-based program that recruits and prepares city students for careers at affiliated colleges. Colby is in its second year with Posse; Bowdoin and Middlebury, among others, have been involved with Posse for several years.

Posse was founded 14 years ago by Deborah Bial, a Middlebury graduate, with the goal of recruiting students with extraordinary academic and leadership ability who might not take part in the traditional college selection process,and might not consider colleges beyond their cities. Colleges interested in building a diverse and accomplished student body contract with the Posse Foundation to do the recruiting,and much of the selection,in any of the four cities where Posse operates: Boston, New York, Chicago and Los Angeles. Posse will open in Washington, D.C., in 2004.

Affiliated schools include Colby, Bowdoin, Middlebury, Grinnell, Carleton, Hamilton, Bryn Mawr, Trinity and nine other colleges and universities. All of the Posse partner schools give full tuition scholarships to all enrolled Posse students; in Colby's case additional aid for room and board, if any, is awarded according to financial need. Schools also pay an annual fee to help offset the foundation's operating costs, though the vast majority of its revenue (and its Wall Street office space) is donated by philanthropic organizations and corporations.

Students are recruited and selected from urban public schools by Posse, with the colleges assisting in the final selection of the 10-student "posse." Students are provided with mentoring and training aimed at helping them succeed, both before and after graduation.
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  • On April 25, 2006, Gerry Boyle wrote:
    First Posse class at Colby is about to graduate (May 2006). Read the summer 2006 issue of Colby magazine to learn how the fared at the college.