Education News

Houston Students Headed To College With Their ‘Posse’

A study by the Houston Endowment found only one in five of Texas eighth graders complete any sort of higher education beyond high school. Some nonprofits are stepping in to help — so that more students get to college and complete their degree.


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High school senior Alexandria Jones is getting ready for college with nine soon-to-be best friends.

“I am excited about not just going in by myself. I think that’s like the scariest aspect of like going from high school and being someone to going to a big university. But I’m excited I have nine other people to explore the campus with.”

The campus is the University of Texas at Austin. Those nine other people are her posse. Yes, her posse.

Jesse Del Rio is part of the group and it’s a new word for him too.

“Actually it’s something that I hadn’t started using until now, this is my posse, this is my posse now, it’s a word I’m sure I’ll be using now, my posse.”

The Posse Foundation is a nonprofit new to Houston. It’s sending students to partner universities: Byrn Mawr, Texas A&M and UT-Austin.

The students receive full tuition scholarships and also go to college together as a group.

While there’s no minimum GPA or SAT score required to apply, it’s a rigorous process. Thirty scholarship students were selected among more than five hundred applicants.

Kamari Brewer directs the foundation’s new Houston chapter.

She says it all started in New York about 20 years ago.

“Debbie Bial is our president and founder. And she was working with students providing a leadership program. One student — one very bright student — went off to college and returned having dropped out and told her I would never  dropped out if I had had my posse with me.”

Experts say that support should not be underestimated.

“One of the important things that we know from research is that your success in college depends a lot on your sense of belonging on the campus you find yourself.”

Cathy Horn is a professor at the University of Houston. She’s also a researcher at the National Center for Student Success.

“Elite colleges and campuses have historically underrepresented students of color, students of low income, first generation students among their freshmen, so when those students have arrived on campus in many regards, they’ve been an island.”

So when Jesse Del Rio and Alexandria Jones arrive on campus they won’t be alone.

Right now their group is meeting every week to get ready for college and get to know each other.

On campus, they’ll continue meeting and have a faculty mentor.

So that word posse is starting to mean something new.

“We’re a group of nine cheering each other on to take the campus by storm, to really excel to like to have that backbone, like he has my back and I have his. I think that that’s important. If he wants to go out and take UT by storm, like be a leader there, he needs somebody to fall back on because he can’t do it by himself.”

The Posse Foundation plans to grow in Houston with more students and more partner universities.

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