"I never would have dropped out of college if I had my Posse." This line is what inspired founder and CEO of Posse Debbie Bial to start her organization. Started in 1989, Posse is now partnered with over 50 of the top colleges in the country and scholars have earned over $931 million dollars in full tuition leadership scholarships. I mention the history of Posse because if I didn't have my Posse than I can guarantee I would not be here at HWS or even writing this.
"How do you think you did?" asked a voice from the other side of my iPhone screen. I did not want to seem defeated, but I was.
"Honestly I wish I could go back and change it all," I said holding back my tears. My face was ruby and I was jittering with angst. I felt like I was suffocating under my suit. I began to strip away my battle armor and as my purple tie swirled to the ground I felt a pressure melt off my shoulders. "I feel like I didn't say enough. My answers weren't as great as the others and like I can't compare to what they've done!"
"What do you mean?" responded the cool voice. I finally knew who it was, it was the Posse trainer for HWS. He was a young Asian man whose outfits were always fresh pressed and his composed demeanor could relax anyone, even me in this frantic episode. "We thin- I think you did a good job, especially at the end."
Andy was talking about the last part of the group interview. The interview process for Posse is called the Dynamic Assessment Process (DAP) and it's distinguished by group interviews that consist of games, writing, public speaking, dialogue, and much more. Truth is, it's the hardest kind of interview I have ever had to do. To this day I have never sweat in any interview because I survived this Hunger Game like ordeal. When I say it's like the Hunger Games I mean it! The first interview had over 100 nominees in it and it lasted 4 hours!
It was now December and this meant I had survived 2 interviews and I was one of 20 students in the final interview. The last activity we had to do was get in a group and respond to a scenario unique to HWS. My group had drunk driving and we were supposed to act like board members and create policies to counter this problem. When Andy said he thinks I did well he was referring to how when my group presented all my lines were stolen. Let me explain: My group had no idea what they were doing so I wrote the script. I gave them each specific parts and made cues. When it came time to present, every time I tried opening my mouth someone swiped my speaking point. The interviewers noticed this and they liked how I kept my composure.
"Yeah I can understand why you think that. But like I'm just sad that you guys didn't get to hear my ideas. Like Andy I wanted this so much! I was willing to apply Early Decision I would not go to UCSB which has been my dream since middle school. I'm willing to leave my friends and family I want this!" I was practically sobbing. I had fallen onto my bed and I curled up, it was like the emotional weight of the last 4 hours had fists and now I couldn't fight back.
"Well I'm sorry to hear that. Tell me do you have snow boots?" asked Andy, still in that cool voice unique to him.
"No I don't why?" I asked. I was legitimately confused.
"Because HWS is going to be really cold," said Andy with a little chuckle.
"OH MY GOD!" I screamed into the phone. By now I had my phone on speaker and I heard an uproar of laughter rise from the other end. Andy was also on speaker and the whole Posse L.A. and HWS team were anxiously waiting to congratulate me.
My mom ran into the room screaming, "What happened?!"
"Mom buy me my plane ticket I made it!" I ran into her arms and melted. I didn't care that I had trampled my blazer or that I knocked over my chair. This was the first success in a chain reaction.
Hobart and William Smith Colleges Posse 3 was officially admitted on December 3, 2014 and was officially inducted into the Posse Foundation on January 12, 2015.
I am honored to say that my Posse includes these amazing people: John Camara, Denzel Degollado, Derek Moore, Lester Gamez, Leslie Colunga, Brandi Taylor, Tamira Lofton, Sergio Perez, myself, and our amazing mentor HWS Associate Dean of Student Life Dr. Stacey Pierce.
My Posse and I met for 7 months in Pre Collegiate Training (PCT) learning about to support each other, life at HWS, and imaging our first steps on campus. I will skim over this part of the story because a few paragraphs will not do it justice. To be fair, this post doesn't do justice to my experience in Posse, but I do want to reflect on the last 3 years that have changed my life forever.
I rested my head against the car window and I just saw a long green blur. I do not remember getting into the car at all, I was too tired. The 9 hour flight never gets easier. What made this trip easy though was that Saoirse, Leslie, Tamira, and I were all flying together. Everyone, but me, had their family accompany them. Why weren't my parents there? The answer doesn't make sense, but it almost does.
"William I am not going because I want you to earn it. I want you to do this on your own. If I go you'll think you can come back or that I will come anytime. I will not. You wanted this and now you finish it," this is what my mom told me the night before I left for my first year fall semester at HWS. My dad said he would go to my graduation and he promised to bring my sisters and grandma.
When Saoirse's mom made it to Medbury it was surreal. I had visited HWS before to meet Posse 1 and 2, but this the first time my Posse was here. I got my room key, got into Jackson Hall, and I fell onto the bed. I was tired. I was cold. I was alone. I was finally at HWS.
When I came for the first time I was a voyager. I did not have the toll of classes, clubs, or work. I look back and think of how I did not thank the upperclass men enough for going out of their way to make time for me. This time I was no longer a visitor I was now a scholar.
When I think about my first semester in college I immediately consider my regrets, but as time has distanced me from those moments I have learned to focus instead on my achievements. Of course the first year of college is hard, but along with making friends and meeting people consider moving across the country to a place you never even heard of. I admit, I was at first disappointed when I arrived. I missed the saturation of action that L.A. had. My classes had 15 people in them and I was shocked. One math class back home had almost 40 students. Living in Jackson did make the socializing easier because I always ran into people. I would say that I even miss living in a dorm because I miss these social pockets.
I want to focus on my high lights because if I focus on the negative than you'll get bored and think I'm melodramatic and I will probably bury my sorrows in Everclear. In my first semester I had great friends, many who I still talk to today. I declared my major in Writing & Rhetoric and I also admitted into the Writing Colleagues Program. On weekends I worked the Simple Serve food station, and because not that many people came by I was paid to play on my phone. So while it wasn't ground breaking and I definitely could have put in more hours into the first two things in comparison to the last one, I managed school, work, and having a social life.
When spring semester came I knew I was going to build off of my mistakes and accomplishments. I declared my second major in Media & Society, I got the golden ticket and got into "Intro. to Media & Society." Then I began my Writing Colleague training, and I won the First Year Writing Prize! Winning this prize not only introduced me to some great people, but it assured me that I was doing this college thing right. Like I don't think you understand how much that award saved me. I was always doubting my abilities here, not only to integrate socially but also to succeed professionally.
My first year really was great. Of course there were pains, but if I write about those things than they won't stay in the past. Also you may be asking yourself, 'What did Posse do?' The answer is simple: everything. The whole reason I was on campus was because HWS and Posse saw potential in me. Whenever I felt doubt arise I remembered that I was 1 of over 2,000 nominees from L.A., and only 1 of 100 winners.
When I became a sophomore the responsibly to myself and Posse changed. Now I had to focus on setting myself up for things like study abroad, internships, and welcoming a new Posse. When you are in Posse you host the annual Posse Plus Retreat (PPR) and I took pause when it was to invite people. This year a whole new group was recruiting an inviting and I remembered that scary process of trying to get my friends to come to an event that I had never gone to. Sophomore year also been well because as we prepare to send off Posse 1 we recognize that we have completed our first legacy cycle!
We now stand at 50 amazing leaders from L.A. walking across the quad. You name an office and we have Posse scholars working there and holding a position. ResEd, Admissions, Communications, Athletics, literally all of it has a Posse pulse in it.
Today was admitted students day and thanks to an alumni donor, HWS Posse 5 got to visit! This is an amazing opportunity because remember that we never get to visit before we are admitted. Consider also that many of us do not visit until we start college. I am so proud of this milestone because it means that we are doing something right. Some alumni saw the current scholars and understood the work that we have put in and gave this group a chance to meet the pioneers. Posse 5 marks the beginning of the second legacy, and just like 1-4 each group will create its own greatness.
I am sad that I will not be here to see them, I'll be abroad in England, but knowing that Posse 2-4 will be here reassures me that they have excellent models to look up to. I also have no doubts that they will each pave their own avenue unique to them, but also drawing upon what's before them. It's such an honor to be part of this program and to part of a L.A.-gacy of greatness at Hobart and William Smith Colleges, but across the world as well.