Last week I had the privilege of helping to select Oberlin Posse 6. For those of you unfamiliar with Posse, check out their site.
Along with Dean of Admissions Debra Chermonte, Dean of Studies Kathryn Stuart and Assistant Director of Admissions Sheena Reed, I met with 25 prospective Obies. These finalists began the Posse process in late August, with over 2700 students nominated to receive a scholarship from one of the Chicago Posse partner colleges. Over the course of a few hours, we got to know them thru short conversations, and had a chance to observe them in a group activity. They each spoke passionately about transitions they faced, a political or social issue they cared about and their families.
What struck me the most, and made me the most grateful for my own life, is when they talked about their neighborhoods. Many of these students live in what can only be grossly understated as tough neighborhoods. One young man shared that out of his 3rd grade class, only 11 are still alive. Did you get that? Still alive. His neighborhood averages one murder per week. Another talked about navigating through gang turf, trying to safely get to a bus that would take her away from that environment for the school day. But then she had to make it safely back home and take care of her younger siblings, trying to set an example that there are other options for them other than gang life. As I listened to their tremendous dedication to making a better life for themselves, I reflected on my own background. Not that I never realized just how fortunate I am, but this really puts things into perspective.
Then the hard part came. All of these students are outstanding. They are leaders in and out of the classroom and many have overcome great odds to be the strong young people they are today. But we had to narrow down our group to 10 who will form Oberlin's 6th Posse. With great thought, conversation and deliberation, we made our decisions.
Then we celebrated by calling a few of the students to share the good news that they had been selected as Posse Scholars. Reactions ranged from Woots! to tears of joy. I had trouble holding back my own tears, knowing that we had just made a college dream a reality for these students and their families. Ok, so I really didn't hold the tears back, but grabbed the box of tissues and enjoyed the moment.
To those students selected, I am so excited to welcome you to the Oberlin family. To those who were not, please know that we think you are amazing people who will be leaders at whichever college you attend and will go on to be successful in life.
I am so proud that Oberlin partners with a program like Posse! And I simply can't wait until January 4 for the awards ceremony where I'll get to see these fabulous students again, and have the opportunity to meet those that have supported them along the way. Along with the Oberlin sweatshirts I'll give to the students, I think I'll bring an extra big box of Kleenex for me. I know it will be an emotional night.