Deborah Bial is president and founder of The Posse Foundation, an organization that sends groups of students to college together for mutual support.
After graduating from Brandeis University in the late 1980's, I worked with a youth organization that ran after-school programs for public high schools in New York City. A lot of the students we worked with were going off to college but dropping out and returning home during their first year.
One student, who had dropped out of a selective university, said he never would have dropped out of college if he had his "posse" with him. In 1989, posse was a more popular term describing a group of friends – the people who back you up. This seemed like a simple idea. Why not send a group of students to college together to act as a support system? The first Posse came from New York City and went to Vanderbilt University later that year.
Since that first group was selected in 1989, The Posse Foundation has grown by leaps and bounds. We’ve sent over 4,500 scholars to top-tier colleges and universities throughout the country. The program has succeeded with the help of an incredible network of individuals and organizations who believe in the mission and in the potential of these young people. This group includes Posse’s board of directors and advisory boards in each Posse city, very generous donors, and most important of all our 44 partner colleges and universities, who have given over $500 million in leadership scholarships to Posse Scholars across the country.
It is especially exciting that we now have a new Veterans initiative focused on helping returning military veterans who want to further their education and build on the leadership skills they acquired during deployment. Our brand-new Veterans Posse Program identified its first group of 11 this past December. They will attend Vassar College in September 2013. We intend to expand the program and have set an ambitious goal of recruiting 100 vets to the program annually. This is our way of thanking the men and women who have served our country and letting them know how much we value their contributions.
Over the 24 years I have been involved with Posse, I have learned how very important it is to be part of something that can make the world a better place. There are still great inequities in the educational systems in the United States. And while we are working to address the challenges, it is important not to forget the young people who are smart and talented and have big dreams, but have been disadvantaged by our failing systems.
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