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

Leaders may be dynamic and persuasive. They may be particularly effective listeners, bringing a group together to accomplish a goal. They may be noticed for being able to encourage reticent students to take part in activities. They may be able to incorporate a variety of ideas into a discussion. All have stood out in the collage of students in their respective high schools. "Just in the first ten minutes, I started to realize this kid is different," said Melody Chan, a counselor at Manhattan Comprehensive. "When he speaks, he speaks with confidence. And eye contact, communication skills,compared to other immigrant students, you could just tell. He's something."

Not all of the counselors and teachers know exactly what Posse is looking for, but the Posse staff does.

It culls the 1,800 nominees to a group of about 700. Over a period of weeks, those students go through another round of interviews and activities before some 200 are selected as finalists for the approximately 90 slots among the Posse New York affiliated colleges. Only then are the students asked to give their preferences. Posse assigns them to the college to which it thinks they are most suited (finalists often don't get their first choice), and 20 or so students are brought in for a final session. Only half will make the final cut.

That final session is an interview with Posse staff and administrators from the assigned college. In Colby's case, the panel in New York has included Beverage, President Adams, Dean of Students Janice Kassman and Sohne. Posse 1 member Steed said the assembled 20 finalists are very much aware that there is no second prize. "You know ten kids are going home without it," he said.

Upon selection the group becomes a "posse",the group that will spend eight months in weekly training sessions, slowly forming bonds where it appeared none could exist. "They say, 'I don't know these people. How am I supposed to go off to college with them?'" director Langsam said.

Making their way to the Posse Foundation offices on Wall Street every Tuesday afternoon from all over New York, the individual Colby Posse members melded into what is by all accounts a cohesive, yet diverse group. They learned of each other's career hopes, family expectations and even spiritual needs. "We all have our strengths and weaknesses," said Roy Wilson '07, a Bronx resident who intends to enter the Colby-Dartmouth engineering program. "Some are the same; some are different. With the meetings you get to see who is who."

And what they have in common: "We're all a bunch of jokesters," said Montana Vasquez '07, an aspiring writer from Manhattan.

Not that Posse doesn't take college and Colby seriously. Training not only prepares Posse members to relate to each other but also to relate to others from other cultural backgrounds. It also prepares them to adapt to life in a college community in a small New England town. "Being away from home, just not having noise outside your window," said Castillo, the Posse 2 trainer and a Posse graduate of Depauw University in Indiana. "Little things."
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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.