by Ava Ransbotham, Suvi Talvitie & Lily Zarr, News Reporters & News Editor
This fall, seniors Perla Perez and Paris Figuereo were selected for the competitive, full-tuition Posse scholarship, marking the first time that two South students have received the scholarship in a single year. After passing three rounds of interviews, over 800 students nationwide were chosen for the scholarship out of thousands of nominees.
Established in 1989, The Posse Foundation recruits diverse students with academic and leadership potential from over 20 U.S. cities to attend one of its 64 partner colleges. A hallmark of the program is its grouping of 10 students into a “Posse” that meets weekly over the eight months before college to develop leadership skills and build a community.
Perez and Figuereo were nominated by METCO counselor Katani Sumner, who said she was delighted when she heard they would be two of the 50 students selected to attend one of the colleges that partner with Boston through the scholarship.
“[I was] over the moon excited because we’ve never had two. I was shocked,” she said. “It’s kind of big because there are only five schools so there are only 50 kids [from Boston] that get picked.”
Figuereo will attend Rutgers University—New Brunswick and Perez will attend Bucknell University. The Posse scholarship required them to apply through early decision and will provide full-tuition assistance. Figuereo said she’s thankful that the opportunity will lessen the financial burden of college.
“I’ve always prayed that I would be going to college for free,” she said. “I’m really appreciative of Ms. Sumner for seeing something in me and pushing me to go ahead and do this program.”
‘12 graduate Raymond Farmer, the first South student to be selected for Posse and now an optometrist, said the program looks for students with strong interpersonal skills who demonstrate growth and commitment to their passions.
“They want someone who’s going to excel by themselves, but then around others, they make the whole group better,” he said. “You want to find what you’re passionate about … and then stick with that.”
Figuereo embodies many of these qualities, her guidance counselor Christina Brown said.
“Paris is an incredible student and person, just [a] wonderful personality,” she said. “Posse really works to create a cohesive group, and I think Paris in any group would be an asset.”
In addition to the scholarship’s financial component, the Posse Foundation supports its scholars by providing mentorship at college and professional development opportunities. ‘21 graduate Maya Hernandez said that her group of Posse scholars helped her find a community when she began college.
“When you go to college, you’re not going to know anyone … but I knew going in that I was already friends with nine people,” she said. “Once school actually started, I already had people that I knew, and I had people in my corner.”
Perez said that this strong sense of community played a part in her decision to participate in the program.
“It’s more than a scholarship,” she said. “You’re not alone and you’re constantly being supported. Posse also gives you connections around the country. … It’s great for life experience.”
Perez’s work ethic helped her stand out in the application process, senior and longtime friend Mary Lareau said.
“She puts a lot of time and effort into everything that she does, and when she’s passionate about something, you can really tell because of the amount of work she puts into it,” she said. “That was one of the things that probably drew their attention to her.”
Figuereo said Posse’s resources will support her future career in nursing, her intended major. Through nursing, she said she looks forward to working with children while exploring science and making an impact.
“Nursing was really the one thing that I was like, ‘I know I could do this and I could help change a child’s life,’” she said. “We don’t have many people of color in medical fields, so I wanted to be a part of that percentage. I wanted to know that I was going to work and I was making a change in someone’s life and in society.”
Perez also plans to pursue the medical sciences. With interests in neuroscience, she has a goal of becoming a doctor.
“I’ve liked science throughout my years, and the brain has always been interesting to me. I’m taking both psychology and neurobiology right now, but neurobiology speaks more to me,” she said.
Figuereo said she is grateful that her Posse cohort will support her throughout her time at college.
“I’m going into college with a group of people, and I know I’m going to leave with them as well,” she said. “My Posse, I’m already really close to them. They’re amazing kids.”