Scholarship program uses peers to help students cope with college

September 20, 2004|By Liz F. Kay | Liz F. Kay,SUN STAFF

Some Anne Arundel students soon may be able to take part in a college scholarship program that offers a buffer against homesickness and other trials they could face on campus.

For 15 years, the New York-based Posse Foundation has given full scholarships to more than 900 public high school seniors so they can attend college along with a group of peers from their community.

Anne Arundel administrators say they will nominate 10 students for the program, hoping that, like other county-based efforts to prepare children for college, it helps them make it to graduation day.

Next month, Posse will begin selecting about 20 students from around the Washington area to join the freshman classes at Iowa's Grinnell College or Bucknell University in central Pennsylvania.

If accepted, the teenagers - strangers at first - are expected to build bonds during eight months of weekly training sessions in leadership, communication and academic skills. They then would attend a sponsoring college together and work with foundation staff as a team to plan events and their future careers.

Anne Arundel's director of pupil services, Rhonda C. Gill, praised the effort. The school system already tries to prepare children for college by offering programs such as AVID, which prepares promising students who would be the first in their families to attend college.

The Posse group would be able to "collectively support each other" and establish a lasting relationship with the college, Gill said.

"If you already have a connection built in, you're more apt to stay at the school and complete your college education," she said.

The foundation, which opened a Washington, D.C., location in May, has regional offices in Boston, Los Angeles and Chicago and works with students in those cities.

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