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Local scholarship foundation sends first-generation college student to school with new 'posse'

Posse Foundation Houston is centered on sending a small, diverse group of students to college together -- on a scholarship -- so they could “back each other up.”

HOUSTON — Trying to pay for college can be a dealbreaker. 

It was for Jazmin Zuniga's family until she found her a new "posse" to travel with her to Maine.

Zuniga is a first-generation college student and comes from a low-income family. At one point, the 19-year-old Yes Preparatory High School graduate didn't think college would be an option for her.

Now she and nine other students are all headed to Colby College together and that's all thanks to a scholarship program called the Posse Foundation Houston.

Posse was founded in 1989 and has been centered on sending a small, diverse group of students to college together -- on a scholarship -- so they could “back each other up.” This mission has led to a 90% graduation rate for Posse Scholars.

“To have a group of friends that came from the same background as you, same home, to help you along the way. If you have trouble, if you think college isn’t for you, there’s this group of people you can trust," said Zuniga.

Posse sends its students to specific schools in groups of 10. Applicants must be nominated by teachers, community leaders, and others.

Zakiya Thomas, the director of Posse Foundation Houston, said the organization goes through the process of vetting nearly 1,200 nominees for 60 slots at six colleges/universities within the U.S.

Those colleges/universities are:

  1. Bryn Mawr College
  2. Carleton College
  3. Colby College
  4. Texas A&M University 
  5. University of Virginia at Arlington 
  6. Wellesley College

Once the winners are chosen, 'trainers' are assigned to the group to assist with any college needs. The group is also required to meet regularly to build a foundation.

“They break the awkwardness in those first 6 or 7 months before school starts," Zuniga said.

Thus far, the program has given local kids $70 million in scholarships.

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