Diplomas Count - June 5, 2014 - 10
EDUCATION WEEK JUNE 5, 2014
Diplomas Count > www.edweek.org/go/dc14
By Caralee J. Adams
Harnessing Peer Power
To Navigate College
Posse program puts social motivation to good use
igh school senior Sydney R. Lewis knows
moving from New York City to Greencastle,
Ind. (pop. 10,300), to attend DePauw University
in the fall will be a big adjustment. But
going with a group of nine other students
she's already bonded with through the Posse
Foundation makes her more confident about
"This way, you have support there. Whenever you're homesick,
you can go to the posse, and they can help you feel better," said Ms.
Lewis, 18. "Also, you might have trouble in one class, and someone
else has trouble in a class that you are pretty good at, and you can
help each other. You make friends before you actually get there, so
it's not just you and a swarm of a whole bunch of kids."
Posse Foundation founder Deborah Bial first got the idea for the
peer-group approach to college when she was working at a nonprofit,
after-school leadership program in New York City in 1989.
One of her students returned from college saying he wouldn't have
dropped out if he'd had his posse with him.
"It made a lot of sense. If you could send a team, a posse, a
group of kids together to college, they'd be more likely to back
each other up and less likely to turn around and come home,"
said Ms. Bial, who is now the president of the New York Citybased
nonprofit scholarship organization.
The Posse Foundation chooses diverse groups of high school
seniors from nine major cities who have strong leadership skills
and academic potential but who may not have stellar test scores
and could be overlooked in the traditional college-selection process.
Besides New York, the cities involved are: Atlanta, Boston,
Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New Orleans, and Washington.
The selected students are given full-tuition scholarships
by one of 51 elite partner institutions, including Vanderbilt University
in Nashville; Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, N.Y.; and
the University of California, Berkeley. Last year, 15,000 students
were nominated by their schools for 670 scholarships, which are
It's a sought-after scholarship, in part because of the results.
While typical college-graduation rates hover around 57 percent,
about 90 percent of Posse scholars finish in four years. And nearly
80 percent of Posse scholars have either founded an organization
or been the president of an existing organization on campus.
The foundation has basked in some high-level attention of
late. President Barack Obama mentioned the success of a Posse
scholar in this year's State of the Union Address and highlighted
the foundation's work at the recent White House summit on college
access for disadvantaged students.
Rooted in Research
Research shows that cohort models and learning communities
can help students academically and socially.
"Students who share an experience together, especially an
educational one, tend to do better together," said Vincent Tinto,
the author of "Completing College: Rethinking Institutional Action"
and a professor emeritus at Syracuse University, in New
York. It's critical to focus efforts on helping students get off to
a solid start in the beginning of college, said Mr. Tinto. Of all
students who leave college before getting a degree, nearly half
do so before the start of the second year, he added.
The Posse Foundation is one of many initiatives that use
social levers to motivate students. The nonprofit College for
Every Student, based in Essex, N.Y., works with 20,000 students
in 24 states to promote student success through peer
PAGE 12 >
Posse scholars Jery Almonte and
Fatoumata Sow listen during a
meeting at the Posse Foundation.
The foundation has worked with more
than 5,500 public high school students.
for Education Week
Jarius Pierre-Toussaint, from
the DePauw Posse 11, defends
his opinion during a writing
workshop at the Posse
Foundation's New York office.
Diplomas Count - June 5, 2014
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Diplomas Count - June 5, 2014
Table of Contents
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