When they visited Denison University last fall, childhood friends Dajia Dampeer and Devonta Dickey were struck by its natural beauty, and by the homey feeling that seemed to envelop the entire campus.
“Everyone at the school seemed so close,” said Devonta. “We’d only been there for a day, and it was like we’d known the people forever.”
Now, thanks to their own academic achievements and leadership potential, as well as the dynamic work of the Posse Foundation, these Lindblom Academy seniors have been granted four-year, full tuition scholarships to this liberal arts university.
“When I found out I was a Posse winner, I cried the whole day,” said Dajia. “I knew in my heart that I had done my best, so it was a wonderful feeling to know it had all paid off.”
Founded in 1989, the Posse Foundation was launched in response to one comment made by a college student who had left school before completing his degree – “I never would have dropped out of college if I’d had my posse with me”. That simple idea – sending a group of students to college together to act as a support system for one another – was the impetus for what has become one of the most comprehensive college access programs in the United States.
After being nominated by a teacher or school counselor, students applying for Posse Awards must complete three rounds of interviews, where they are evaluated on their academics, leadership skills, extracurricular activities, service contributions, and various other talents.
“The hardest part was the waiting,” said Dajia. “Waiting to hear if you’d made it to the next round, and then finally waiting for the call to tell you if you’d received the scholarship.”
Once selected, Posse winners are grouped by university and meet weekly until just before going off to school. The creation of these supportive, multicultural “posses” has resulted in these students graduating from college at a rate of over 90 percent.
“the program is wonderful,” said Lindblom principal Alan Mather. “By building relationships ahead of time, these students are in an excellent position to support each other during and beyond their transition to college.”
Lindblom had nine Posse winners in 2014 – the highest in the District.
“In previous years, we’ve had a winner here and there, but this year was a Posse explosion,” said Mather. “It’s a testament to our bright, engaged students, and also to the teachers and counselors who were with them every step of the way, coaching them through their interviews and hunting them down when necessary to make sure they’d turned everything in.”
The Posse Foundation and its partner universities awarded 95 CPS students with full-tuition scholarships in 2014. These students will attend such prestigious universities as Cornell, Middlebury College, and the University of Wisconsin at Madison.
“We’re extremely proud of our students,” said David Narain, whose two Posse winners from King College Prep will attend Indiana’s DePauw University. “This program gives them the foundation that will carry them through four years of success and help ensure that they finish their degree. It’s more than just a financial gain. It’s an entire support system.”
And for Dajia and Devonta, it’s a chance to maintain the strong friendship that they have maintained since the fourth grade.
“No words can describe how we feel,” said Devonta. “It’s like everything we’ve been working so hard for is finally here. And the opportunity to continue our friendship just makes it that much more amazing.”