Lehigh’s first cohort of Posse Scholars are taking the class of 2022 and campus by storm. The Posse Foundation sponsors scholars from across the country to attend top-level universities on merit-based leadership scholarships.
The prestigious scholarships are awarded to a select number of students from each university every year, through a rigorous application process featuring three rounds of interviews.
Founded in 1989, Posse has selected 9,966 scholars to date.
Joseph Swenson, ‘22, a sophomore at Lehigh, recalls the moment he got the call from Posse.
“I didn’t know how to act. I was screaming so loud my mom thought the bookshelf fell on me,” Swenson said. “It was so exciting to hear I got a scholarship that was super hard to get. It was really a happy moment for me.”
But Posse is more than a scholarship.
The organization focuses on connecting students prior to arriving at their new university, preparing them as a group with leadership skills while fostering an environment to build relationships with each other.
Swenson is a part of ‘Posse1’ at Lehigh, the first cohort at the university. All students in ‘Posse1’ are from the Bay Area in California.
For the last semester of their senior year of high school, the selected students were required to meet at the foundation headquarters and take part in pre-collegiate training, where they focused on leadership and communication across cultures.
After encountering a difficult transition to campus life her freshman year, Kendall Prime, ‘22, another ‘Posse1’ Scholar, said having the group was a great support system.
“When I first got to Lehigh, the Lehigh attitude was very different from where I come from,” Prime said. “It was a little bit of a shock for me, so I really leaned on my posse when I got here.”
Swenson agrees that having his posse was helpful in acclimating to college life.
In fact, Swenson’s first time on campus was freshman orientation.
“My Posse met six months before coming to campus and started pre-collegiate training and talking about topics and issues, so coming to Lehigh I knew at least nine other students,” Swenson said. “I was glad I was able to come to school with nine other students that I had relationships with, so that I had some support starting college, and I didn’t feel alone.”
Heather Johnson, the Lehigh ‘Posse1’ faculty mentor, said she enjoys her role interacting with the scholars.
She said the 10 students are her favorite part of being the ‘Posse1’ faculty mentor.
“They are each individually absolutely incredible humans,” said Johnson. “I have overflowing respect and admiration for them. As a group, they are fun and amazing, and I love spending time with them every week, getting to know them so well and watching their growth. I am always inspired and amazed by my posse.”
Although the scholars have each other to rely on through their collegiate career, being in Posse is not an easy feat.
“Posse provides a lot of support for the scholars, but the scholars are expected to help add to the culture of any campus they are on,” Prime said. “So although we do get a lot of career counseling, and we do have a lot of resources, I find that a lot of the Posse Scholars here are very engaged with their environment.”
Between the two of them, Prime and Swenson connect with different facets of the campus through six different organizations and clubs.
Prime and Swenson, now in their sophomore years, are both political science majors.
Swenson is chasing interests in social justice, civil rights and criminal justice work while learning more about Islam through his minor.
Prime is looking to take her degree into a creative space through her minors in film and documentary, focusing on video journalism or documentary making.
“Freshman year is just a hard one overall,” Prime said. “I found my groove at Lehigh, and I found where I fit in in terms of the campus so I feel much more at home now.”
For Johnson, the experience is just as rewarding. She said over the past two years of Lehigh’s partnership with the Posse Foundation, she has become a huge fan.
She said the Posse Scholars are some of the best students she’s met in the 19 years she’s been at Lehigh.
“We are so lucky to have them here,” Johnson said. “I am so excited to see what they do at Lehigh and in their lives beyond. This has been a highlight of my career to be the faculty mentor for Lehigh Posse1.”