From left to right: Senior Joe Muche, Counselor Lamar Young, Seniors Imani Johnson, Stella Maximuk and Eamon Walsh smile after receiving their official Posse Scholarship certificate.
From left to right: Senior Joe Muche, Counselor Lamar Young, Seniors Imani Johnson, Stella Maximuk and Eamon Walsh smile after receiving their official Posse Scholarship certificate.
Courtesy of Midtown High School

Four Midtown seniors earn 2024 Posse Scholarship

Thousands of students apply for the highly competitive Posse Scholarship each year, but for Posse Atlanta, only 60 are awarded it. 

This year, 13 Atlanta Public Schools students were chosen for the scholarship, and of those winners, four are Midtown students. Seniors Joseph Muche, Eamon Walsh and Stella Maximuk will be attending George Washington University, and senior Imani Johnson will be attending Bard College. These students went through a multiple months-long process of applying before receiving the scholarship. 

“The Posse scholarship is a leadership-based scholarship that partners with individual universities and cities throughout the country,” Walsh said. “The design of the program is to bring together a group of 10 like-minded incoming [college] freshmen. Throughout the process, they match you with schools, and then they arrange the posse of students together for the scholarship.”

After going through the interview process and being matched with a school, the selected students are awarded a full tuition scholarship to one of the six partner schools. For Posse Atlanta, students can attend George Washington University, Bard College, Boston University, College of Wooster, Texas A&M and Brandeis University. 

Becoming a Posse Scholar

Posse offers an opportunity for students to receive financial aid by not prioritizing academic achievement.

“It uses criteria and a selection process that is different from a lot of traditional scholarships,” Midtown College Advisor Mira Ratchev said. “They look at academic achievement, but they don’t have specific GPAs or SAT score [requirements]. They look at the interviews that the student does, and it’s mostly dependent on the student’s positive qualities. So, it’s accessible to students who may not have a 4.0 GPA or may not have a high SAT score.” 

In addition to the scholarship’s accessibility to many different students, counselor Lamar Young believes Posse opens up students to opportunities they might not have considered.

“[Posse] gives [students] access to some pristine institutions,” Young said. “Most of [the colleges] are in the Northeast. Wooster is in Ohio, and then Texas A&M is obviously in Texas. But those are places that normally people from Georgia wouldn’t migrate to. I think that aspect is a really good opportunity for our city, not just our school.”

The 10 George Washington recipients are given their Scholarship at the Posse award ceremony. (Courtesy of Stella Maximuk)

The application process begins with a nomination and preliminary application in a student’s junior year. From there, students go through an interview process that gets progressively more competitive and helps match students with their schools. 

“It’s a three-step interview process,” Maximuk said. “The first [part] was a large group interview. They were just kind of observing how we interacted, and they sat us down at the very end and we had to write an essay. The second round is the formal interviews. That’s when I went to the Posse building downtown and sat down with two of the Posse staff. They were asking questions about my leadership, my interests and how I would rank the schools. [The third round] was another group interview, but it was with 25 people, and instead of volunteers being there it was with the actual George Washington University representatives. They were walking around and talking to us. It is very interactive; I think it’s a super unique interview process.”

Johnson agrees the process looks less at academics and more at leadership skills.

“I remember in my first interview, we built Legos and it was like, you could look at this tower once, and you had to remember it,” Johnson said. “It was basically who could be an effective leader within the way where it’s not like, ‘I won this award when I was in the 10th grade, or I held this fundraiser when I was a junior,’ it’s more of a like, ‘this is the way that my mind works and this is how differently I can effectively problem solve other than the rest of my peers.’”

Walsh also recognizes the uniqueness of the interview process, but experiences stress because of the scholarship’s high competition.

“I would say the biggest challenge or obstacle that myself or anyone else faced would be self-doubt,” Walsh said. “When you’re in a room with 100 plus other people that are the best of their schools, it can be easy to kind of get a feel like an imposter. Especially in the final rounds, when everyone has extremely interesting stories they’ve achieved so much in high school, regardless of obstacles they may have faced, it’s easy to doubt yourself. But I think it’s important to just remember that you tried your best, and you did the best that you could. That’s what I tried to do, and it definitely helped me throughout the process.”

College advisor Samatha Collier believes Posse not only looks for leadership in its scholars but also strengthens those skills through their interviews and collegiate work.

“I think leadership is like really what they’re looking for,” Collier said. “They want you to be able to be sociable, like working in a group and cooperating with others. That’s why they do group interviews, too. They want to see how you bounce off other people and how you work in a group. Another great thing about the scholarship is they put you in a cohort. So, once you start, one of the requirements is that you continue meeting with your cohort every single week. It also helps you build those people skills and just helps you feel what it’s going to be like when you go off and work a career eventually.”

Experiences of a Posse Scholar

Hours after the final interview, students received word they had been awarded the scholarship.  

“I got a text from Posse, and they were like, ‘Hey, we have some additional questions for you. Can you hop on Zoom?’” Maximuk said. “I hopped on Zoom, and I didn’t know what was happening at all. I got my parents, and they only had a single question for my mom, and it was, ‘How does she feel about me living in DC?’ That’s when we knew and then they told us that I had gotten the scholarship, and it was just so surprising. I was in so much shock and so happy. I mean it felt completely unreal, it was insane.”

Bella Luz is a Midtown alumnus and a 2023 Posse Scholar for George Washington University. Upon receiving the scholarship, she attended weekly workshops with the nine other students attending her school, which helped strengthen their ties months before the school year started.

“Every week we met with our posse and our trainers,” Luz said. “It’s usually a workshop, and we just talk through [issues]; there was one about race, one about gender. It’s a lot about exploring your identity and how to work through problems, and it prepares you for college life.”

Young believes Midtown’s culture has helped students easily navigate these conversations both during the Posse application process and afterward.

“Midtown has such a unique culture,” Young said. “You don’t find very many schools, really in the metro area, that have such a mix of social, economic, racial, ethnic and religious backgrounds that you find in this school. I think that allows our students to have somewhat of a worldview that’s different than other people in our metro area. So, when they go to the interviews, they bring all that, and they bring themselves to the table.”

Upon arriving at school, scholars keep in touch with their posse and trainer through weekly meetings. While this is a requirement, Luz finds maintaining those connections helpful in the social and collegiate aspects of her life.

“You have to attend all the mandatory events, and you have to at least try to go to most of the weekly meetings,” Luz said. “And just maintain a connection with your posse because that’s the whole purpose of having the scholarship. You’re a part of a support system, and the whole point is you’re able to rely on any of us.”

However, Luz feels as though her posse serves a larger purpose in her life than she initially thought they would.

“Most posses get really close after the whole process because you see them every week after you get the scholarship,” Luz said. “Now in school, even though we don’t all hang out all the time, I see at least one like every day. It’s nice getting to know people outside of your regular friend group [and people] you would never actually see outside of school.”

Posse builds community

While navigating college may seem overwhelming, the Posse Scholarship offers a unique advantage by providing a network of people whom you already know.

The ten Posse Scholars attending Bard College met as a group for the first time after receiving the scholarship. (Courtesy of Posse Atlanta)

Maximuk finds that being with people who have the same goals as her makes her excited for her future with Posse.

“It is such an incredible and talented group of people, incredibly diverse, and everybody has so many different interests, but we’re all very passionate and motivated towards our future,” Maximuk said. “That’s one thing I’ve really noticed about my group as I’ve gotten to know them a little bit more, and I’m really excited more for the future, but it’s just an incredible group of smart people, who are talented in so many different ways and from so many different places.”

Johnson shares the same sentiment.

“Everybody is so kind to one another, and everybody is just so willing to work with you,” Johnson said. “I have never met an organization that just loves and you feel like you will never feel poorly about being in the room with all of those people. And you will never feel poorly about the way you walk out because the policy staff will not let you.”

Walsh highlights Posse’s ability to create a collaborative and supportive community. 

“So, I really looked at it [the last interview] more as an opportunity to make new friends, meet new people and just be myself, share my story and be vulnerable, not really as much of a competition,” Walsh said. “So, because of that, I think I really enjoyed all of the activities that we did and all of the discussions that we had; [I] found them very insightful. And I met quite a few like-minded people from other schools that I’ve stayed in touch with. I think that just speaks to the program overall and how it’s successful, even just participating even if you don’t want the scholarship.”

Johnson emphasizes the good nature of Posse and the unique value it places on students beyond academics. 

“It just shows that you can come from anywhere, and you can feel any way about your performance, about yourself and about the way the cards that you’ve been dealt,” Johnson said. “And, at the end of the day, walk away feeling good enough, because there’s an organization like Posse that wants to see your heart instead of your grades or your GPA. It’s been the best thing; I feel so at home. I feel like it is a privilege to be able to have met everybody and to feel like those people are on my side.”

Growing From The Posse Scholarship

The Posse Scholarship, while rigorous, has opened doors to more opportunities than ever imaginable, including the prestige associated with the Posse Scholar title. 

“Well, it’s certainly an honor to be a Posse scholar,” Collier said. “Just having that on your resume can open doors for you. Also, I do feel like their cohort model is great at building the students up and modeling them into great leaders and characters. I think it definitely gives them the social and professional skills that they’ll need to succeed anywhere.”

In addition to resume building, Walsh thinks the support system Posse provides will help him flourish at and beyond college.

“I think Posse will definitely be tremendously helpful,” Walsh said. “First of all, George Washington gave us some great trainers and mentors through the school, as well — so, a great support system. Also, the support system from the other members of your posse will definitely be instrumental in thriving at George Washington and even after we graduate. I’m sure I will stay connected. And for me, I’m very career-driven and career-focused. So the career program that Posse has definitely been instrumental to my success. From attending the winter career day just recently, I noticed how impactful it can be because they have lots of amazing partnerships and people who work for companies that are eager to work with and potentially hire people who have gone through the Posse program.”

While the four Midtown Posse Scholars plan to go on different paths, seniors Stella Maximuk, Eamon Walsh, and Joseph Muche will all be attending George Washington University in the fall. (Courtesy of Posse Atlanta)

Muche agreed and added that his skillset was enhanced and validated because of Posse.

“I felt more confident in myself and less introverted going through the interview process and [it] made me look back and be proud of what I accomplished as a student,” Muche said. 

Luz suggests students apply for the Posse scholarship because of the community it has given her.

“I definitely would suggest it to other students applying to school because it has so many benefits, not just the money or the scholarship, but you get so many connections,” Luz said. “You get so many connections and networking opportunities even after graduating college. Posse has made me a more driven person, especially in my college career. Joining Posse made me want to be more active with other organizations on campus. It just really helps me connect with my community more.”

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Carys Brightwell, News Associate Managing Editor
Carys Brightwell is a junior and this is her third year writing for The Southerner. She is the secretary for Beta Club and is a part of the Latin Club, SGA, Book Club, Earth Club, First Century Leaders, and JSU. When she's not spending her time writing she's either with her friends, playing the bass, or sewing something new.
Diana Jachman, Multimedia Managing Editor
Diana Jachman is a senior, and this is her thrid year writing for The Southerner. She currently writes and produces video productions for the website. Outside of The Southerner, Diana is involved with Midtown's Theater program. She is so excited to continue working on the paper this year.

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