In mid-March my children reluctantly arrived home after their college campuses decided to move to online instruction for the remainder of the semester due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Understandably, nearly every campus in the country followed suit and millions of college students and their families began adjusting to this uncharted territory. My children definitely miss the face-to-face instruction from their professors, but what they miss the most are the friendships, activities and daily college life. Their longing for the bonds and support they enjoyed with peers is profound, and upon return to their respective schools I’m confident they’ll find themselves even more grateful for those relationships.

Coincidentally, in January I was forwarded an idea to highlight an organization promoting personal and academic excellence for college students by placing them in supportive, multi-cultural teams of 10 students or “Posses.” 

Started 30 years ago because of a student saying, “I never would have dropped out of college if I’d had my posse with me,” the Posse Foundation long ago recognized the short- and long-term benefits of fostering strong relationships for college students. Through identifying public high school students with academic and leadership potential who may have been overlooked by the traditional college selection process, Posse extends the full-tuition opportunity to pursue their personal and academic goals at one of 58 partner colleges and universities.

This national organization, with a 90 percent graduation rate, launched with only five students from New York City attending Vanderbilt University as the first “Posse.” The Foundation has expanded to 10 urban cities, coming to New Orleans in 2011 through the help of former Tulane University President Scott Cowen. With over 260 local Posse scholars and alums, the New Orleans program fulfills its mission to create academic and leadership opportunities for a diverse range of students from seven surrounding Parishes. However, the Posse Foundation is much more than just a college scholarship. 

The four finely tuned Posse program components begin with the Dynamic Assessment Process, an evaluation method identifying young leaders with great potential. From September through December each year, high school juniors are nominated by their schools and community organizations based on academic rigor as well as motivation, drive to succeed and potential leadership qualities. In a competitive three-part process, nominees participate in group and individual interviews with Posse staff and partner college administrators until a Posse is selected for each institution. 

These groups of high school seniors meet twice weekly from January to August with Posse peers and staff in Pre-Collegiate Training workshops addressing academic excellence, cross-cultural communication, leadership and team building and group support. 

Once at their respective colleges, the four-year Campus Program ensures retention through constant academic and emotional support in a routine of meetings and workshops with Posse groups, campus liaisons and mentors. Throughout college and post-graduation, local career partners (Entergy, LPHI, Propellor, Laitram, Lucid, IBERIABANK and Deloitte) and Posse alums are an integral component of the Career Program connecting and mentoring Posse Scholars to a wide range of professional opportunities. These partners are among over 200 industry-leading organizations partnering with the Posse Foundation.

New Orleans Executive Director, Dr. James Dabney shares, “Posse’s ultimate goal is to create a leadership network that more adequately reflects the diversity of our country.” 

“It’s not just a program, it’s a movement” and the Posse Foundation is changing lives in New Orleans and around the country.  

A little more…

Support The Posse Foundation at “The Power of 10” fundraiser October 13, at the Sazerac House. For more information visit