Kenwood Academy’s Posse Scholars look forward to higher education adventures

First row: (left to right) Brice Roundtree, Imani Joseph, Thalia Myers-Cohen and Jonathan Williams. Second row (left to right): Valentina Turner, Zora Johanson (College Resource Coordinator), Principal Karen Calloway, Lauren Weaver and Courtney Wilson. (Contributed photo)

By SAMANTHA SMYLIE
Staff writer

Seven Kenwood Academy students have accepted full tuition scholarships to attend liberal arts, Ivy League and flagship state universities and colleges throughout the country with the help of the Posse Foundation.

The Foundation, a non-profit organization created in 1989 dedicated to increasing diversity and inclusion at elite colleges and universities, matches students from the city of Chicago and nine other cities with 58 partner schools. Each Kenwood Posse scholar will be a part of a cohort of 10 students from schools throughout the city, with whom they will spend time during the rest of their senior year and over the summer before heading off to campus in the fall.

Imani Joseph, a Hyde Park resident, will attend Oberlin College in Ohio in the fall where she plans to major in Law and Society, and she has her eye on the Creative Writing Department. She chose Oberlin because of its study-abroad program and the small school environment.

“I chose Oberlin because I really liked the environment,” Joseph said. “It is very rigorous, but it isn’t competitive. I like that I can academically challenge myself, but not be in a cutthroat environment. I also like how small and intimate it is; you know your professors and your professors know you. You can branch into other studies and really specify what you want to learn and how you want to learn it.”

Jonathan Williams, a resident of South Shore, will be joining the cohort of Posse scholars going to Pomona College in Claremont, Cal. He looks forward to majoring in Philosophy, Politics and Economics.

“I definitely want to do a semester abroad,” Williams said. “At Pomona, I can do a semester at the London School of Economics; I’m super excited to do something like that. I want to do student body government and I’m definitely interested in the Black Student Union. I’m going to (submerge) myself into the culture of this school through extracurricular activities.”

Both Courtney Wilson and Valentina Turner will attend Agnes Scott, a liberal arts women’s college located in Decatur, Ga. Wilson looks forward to studying Creative Writing with a minor in film because she is interested in screenwriting.

Wilson has an older sister who went to Agnes Scott. After visiting the campus a few times and researching the school she fell in love with it because it had everything she wanted; from study abroad programs to the school’s community.

“Agnes Scott is really small and I hear that it is almost smaller than Kenwood. But, I’m excited about the Posse community on campus. I’m really excited because I met the girls in the finalist meeting and we were already super close,” said Wilson, “I’m excited about Agnes Scott because it is a small community. I feel like it’ll be more familial, like everybody kind of knows each other. Kind of like what I initially wouldn’t expect from a university because I thought people just kind of know each other from class. But Agnes Scott is a little more intimate and smaller.”

Turner, a resident of South Chicago, looks forward to majoring in Political Science, and she is interested in Neuroscience and Journalism, as well. Going to a women’s college appealed to Turner not only because she has four sisters, but she is invested in feminism and cultivating a sisterhood among women. As an Afro-Latina, Agnes Scott’s study abroad program in Cuba made the school one of her first choices.

“So, I know that I want to take Spanish and I want to do a study abroad program while in school. The thing that’s special about Agnes Scott is that they have a program where you study abroad in your first year. So, that was the thing that really attracted me there and they have a study abroad program in Cuba on race. So when I found that out I was like, ‘Oh, this is the perfect school for me,” said Turner.

Lauren Weaver has accepted the offer to attend the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor in the fall. Weaver is a resident of Woodlawn who is interested in studying Biomedical Engineering. Her Posse is specifically geared towards those who want to major in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. Expecting her cohort to be predominantly men, Weaver was excited to see several African American women in her cohort.

She chose the University of Michigan because of its “research opportunities, its study abroad programs and the fact that it’s a research institution. My major is biomedical engineering and there is a lot of stuff that I want to do in a lab. I want to be close with my professors. I want to work with them. Knowing that they had the opportunities for my major, it was really a big factor in choosing it.”

While studying engineering, Weaver plans to be involved in extracurricular activities that have a social justice and advocacy mission and find little communities on a large campus that will help her explore her interests.

Brice Roundtree, a resident of Hyde Park, will head off to Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y. in the fall.

He wanted to go to Cornell because “it’s prestigious and the location in upstate New York, I think that will be helpful. They also got the programs that I wanted like Statistical Science so that I can be an actuary one day. That can help me go into a wide range of career opportunities like actuarial science and engineering.”

While there he plans to do internships, join academic clubs like the debate team and participate in recreational sports like basketball, football and even try his hand at skiing.

Thalia Myers-Cohen will join the Posse Community at Middlebury College. Myers-Cohen has been a resident of the Kenwood-Hyde Park area and Woodlawn. She plans to major in Neuroscience with a minor in Film and Media Studies. While she is a little nervous by the cultural shift she may experience in Vermont, she sees it as a challenge and hopes that it will expand her horizons.

“I picked Middlebury because they have very specific programs. They have a strong language program, study abroad opportunities and they’re really good about environmental responsibility. They have a net zero carbon footprint and I know it’s going to be a cultural shift for sure. Like Vermont is not anything I have ever really been in,” said Myer-Cohen. “Honestly, I knew I wanted to experience a different setting for college because I think it’s good for expanding my character.”

While studying at Middlebury, Myers-Cohen is excited to meet its large community of 120 Posse scholars. Middlebury has posse scholars from Chicago, Los Angeles and New York. On campus she’ll work with environmental organizations, and she hopes to have opportunities like learning how to bake, paint or play piano.

Each of the Scholars is excited to represent Kenwood, 5015 S. Blackstone Ave., and they agree that coming from a school with seven scholars made the intense interview process more comfortable. Joseph said, “The people at my school who were also doing Posse that’s who I called after every interview and that’s who I asked for advice and we practiced what we were going to say. Also, it was reassuring to see familiar faces when I walked into the first round interview with a hundred kids in the room.”

All the Kenwood students put all of their energy into preparing for Posse, but some had other plans in place if they didn’t make it.

“Me and Imani, we had a plan,” Williams said. “It was early decision (1) Northwestern, early decision (2) NYU if we didn’t get Posse. But once we got to that second round, the interviewers said, ‘We’re your early decision school and you can’t apply anywhere else.’ So it was Posse or nothing and it made us nervous.

“If I went back, I’d do the same thing because I’m definitely pleased with where I’m at and the risk would have been worth it.”

When asked what they are going to miss about Kenwood, Wilson said, “I didn’t expect to make best friends or grow the way that I did. And it’s also, I feel like the environment is spirit, like work hard, play hard. So it’s like they’re pushing me to be my best and we have all of these teachers that are super passionate about what they do. You can tell they’re not just like collecting a check. They’re doing this because they care about educating people and pushing students to be their best.”

Myers-Cohen, will spend the rest of senior year being involved at Kenwood.

“I’m going to be mindful about what I’m losing even though I’m gaining so much. I’m not going to be in high school ever again,” she said. “I’m going to spend time appreciating and being involved in the community. I’m hoping to be in the school play, which I had wanted to do my whole time in high school, but like I didn’t have the time because I was on that academic grind. So that and soccer and just sort of spending time with also Chicago, cause Middlebury is rural and I’m going to need to soak up the city.”

s.smylie@hpherald.com