Senior Julien Payen wins prestigious Posse scholarship, selected out of 1500 applicants


Sanjay Fernando

Senior Julien Payen wins the Posse scholarship and will attend University of Wisconsin-Madison in the Fall.

Senior Julien Payen won the Posse Foundation’s prestigious four-year full-tuition scholarship to the University of Wisconsin-Madison, out of a pool of 1500 other applicants.

“Being fortunate enough to earn this full-tuition scholarship has taken a heavy weight off of my shoulders,” Payen said.  “The majority of the money that I would’ve had to pay to attend the University is now being covered by Posse.”

The Posse Foundation aims to recruit students with significant leadership potential and diverse backgrounds to be the catalysts for change in their communities.  Payen is a straight-A, International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma Programme student who also reigns as the boys tennis divisional champion, leads The Current as Co-Editor-in-Chief, and serves as the Senior Patrol Leader for his Boy Scout troop.

“If I hadn’t received this scholarship, I don’t think that I would’ve been able to get to experience college life in such a big university so far away from home,” Payen added. “I think that it will really shape my life experiences to have to be independent in such a new environment.

Social studies teacher William Funk taught Payen his junior year in the IB Theory of Knowledge class.

“I was very happy to hear that Julien won the Posse scholarship…He is very deserving of this award,” Funk said.  “Julien is a hard worker and is very outspoken in class.  In many cases his willingness to participate in class discussions would spread to others and lead to some really cool exchanges.”

“Julien is also very confident,” Funk added. “ He isn’t afraid to defend his point of view. There were times when he would debate the entire class!”

Science teacher Lauren Wilkinson has taught Payen in IB Biology for two years and was elated to hear he won the scholarship.  “Julien keeps me on my toes by asking many complex questions.  He also is an excellent communicator,” Wilkinson said.

Payen’s experience with photography, videography, and The Current have pushed him to major in journalism and minor in broadcast journalism.

Journalism is “something that I’ve really grown into since joining the newspaper in my sophomore year,” Payen added.  “I can really see myself writing as a career or ending up like the next Stephen A. Smith.”  Stephen A. Smith is a popular and successful television sports journalist and analyst, commentating on ESPN’s First Take and appearing on SportsCenter.

Sports photography helped Payen with his creative expression.  “My mentality is that all of my pictures have a purpose,” Payen added. “I take pride in the fact that the pictures that I take for some people might be the only memories of them playing the sport in the future.”

Payen, who attended private school for his early education, never expected to attend Watkins Mill for high school, but immediately knew it was a great decision after he started.  “I felt like I was going to school to enjoy my learning experience—not just to bury my head in a book and pull all-nighters just to compete with my classmates for a higher status,” Payen added.

Watkins Mill’s diverse population, as well as the experience of joining clubs like the Minority Scholars Program (MSP), African Students Association (ASA), and the Black Student Union (BSU) “really has helped me learn more about my being mixed,” Payen said. Payen identifies as Black and Latino.

“I’ve genuinely loved my experiences at Watkins Mill…Being able to come into class and [celebrate] with the people that I’ve grown closer to over the last four years of high school always brings a smile to my face,” Payen said.

Payen looks forward to being on a new campus and meeting lots of new people.  He is excited to start classes related to his major and work with a college-level newspaper.  His goal is to graduate, “but I want to look back on my time at the University and be able to say that I had fun.”

For students interested in Posse, Payen advises that they “be themselves” in the interviewing process and to listen, especially given the collaborative nature of the scholarship.

“It really makes an impact on people when you can remember their names or any information that they tell you like their interests or their school,” Payen added.  “It shows that you really care about the conversations that you have with them.”

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