Watkins Mill seniors earn highly competitive Posse Scholarship

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Jade Pinkowitz

Rut Bonilla and Fahad Habona became Posse Scholars and received a full ride to Posse-partnered schools.

Seniors Fahad Habona and Rut Bonilla were selected this year to be Posse Scholars, gaining a free education at the university of their choice that is partnered with The Posse Foundation.

The Posse Foundation recruits and trains students with great leadership potential to be Posse Scholars. The Posse Foundation began because a college drop out claimed that they would not have dropped out if they had their “posse” with them.

Posse scholars “need to have a strong GPA [and] a good work ethic, and it helps to be a little outgoing,” College and Career Information Coordinator Kate Heald said. There are about 50 new Posse Scholars welcomed into the foundation every year,  recruited from ten cities across the United States: Atlanta, the Bay Area, Boston, Chicago, Washington D.C., Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New Orleans, and New York. Montgomery County is part of the D.C. branch. 

Students begin the process after being nominated by teachers or other influential figures in their life. “I really did not apply for Posse, it was more along the lines that I was nominated for it. And from there I went and started,” Habona said. Posse Scholars receive full-tuition scholarships for any of the colleges and universities that are partnered with the Posse Foundation.

Posse is a leadership and merit-based scholarship, meaning students must hold some type of leadership role, in addition to having good grades. Posse Scholars also get to nominate another student from their school for the next year. Posse Scholars are nominated toward the end of their junior year in high school. After being nominated, the nominees have to write an essay and make it through an interview process to be accepted.

The acceptance rate to become a Posse Scholar is three percent, meaning both Habona and Bonilla fought diligently for their positions. “[Habona] is humble, but he’s an advocate for himself, he’s a team player, and he’s very bright,” Heald added. “[Bonilla] is a bit quieter and subdued, but also very bright and very humble. I think that’s very important.”

Posse Scholars get to choose to attend one of the five colleges and universities that are partnered with the Posse Foundation: Bucknell University, Lafayette College, University of Rochester, Sewanee “The University of the South”, and the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The school that the Posse Scholar attends determines which Posse group they become a part of; a group of ten Posse Scholars attends each school.

In March of 2011, The Posse Foundation was one of the few organizations chosen by former President Barack Obama to receive a portion of his $1.4 million dollar Nobel Peace Prize money. The Posse Foundation received a gift of $125,000 dollars.  Obama “believes in the cause, and he’s really trying to help students get to a university that they really want to go to,” Bonilla said.

Posse Scholars also have access to coaches who help them develop their writing skills before they even go off to college. “They have quite a big staff… they really help promote and try and get other people to donate money to the scholarship,” Bonilla added.

The goal of the Posse Foundation is to send selected students to college with a strong support system made up of their peers to ensure success. Posse Scholars attend weekly sessions where they connect as a group and will help each other navigate college. Right now they’re still getting to know each other. “We laugh together. We cry together. Essentially, we’re just a huge friend group,” Habona added.

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