OPRF touts four Posse scholars

Prestigious award pays for graduating seniors' academic tuition

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By Michael Romain

Staff Reporter

Oak Park and River Forest High School has a new notch under its already lavish belt of academic achievements — a record four recipients of the prestigious Posse scholarship. 

District 200 announced in a Jan. 15 statement that seniors Aaliyah Brown, Ev Berger-Wolf, Evan Kelly and Mariama Sidime all received full academic scholarships to elite institutions after they were named 2019 Posse Foundation Scholars — the most students in OPRF history. 

Brown plans on attending Cornell University, while Wolf and Kelly plan on attending Middlebury College and Sidime intends to go to Pomona College. 

In the statement, District 200 Superintendent Joylynn Pruitt-Adams said that the students "competed in a rigorous selection process against thousands of students across the country," before calling the fact that OPRF netted four Posse Scholars "an extraordinary achievement." 

This year, the Posse Foundation designated 746 high school seniors across the country as their scholars, awarding this year's cohort a total $143.5 million in full-tuition leadership scholars, according to a statement on the organization's website. 

Each scholar will get to their respective institutions of higher learning this fall after completing Posse's eight-month Pre-Collegiate Training Program. 

Posse was established in 1989, "because of one student who said, 'I never would've dropped out of college if I'd had my posse with me,'" the organization's website explains. The scholarship program is a rarity in that identifies, recruits and trains students with strong academic and leadership potential before sending them off to college with their tuition paid and in a "posse" of 10 other high-achieving students. 

According to Posse officials, from January to August each scholar meets weekly for two-hour workshops in areas including team-building, academic excellence and cross-cultural communication. 

Simply being nominated for a Posse scholarship is a feat in itself — it's the only way students can apply for the coveted scholarship. Each high school can submit the names of up to 10 students for the award. District 200 officials said that they had initially identified 40 students as potential applications before paring the list down to 10. 

"Posse uses a three-part evaluation, which includes weekly opportunities for applicants to demonstrate their leadership abilities, their skill at working as a team, and their desire for success, through large-group and individual interviews," District 200 officials explained in the statement.

This year's Posse Scholars all expressed the deep gratification that comes with winning the award — and the existential sigh of relief that comes with knowing that they won't leave college with student debt. 

"I feel really proud to represent my school and my community, and go to a really prestigious college," said Brown. "I know everyone in the program will do really great things."

CONTACT: michael@oakpark.com    

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