The students – Fernando Banales Mejia ’17, Vincent Creer ’17, Mark Curiel ’17, Cinderella Famutimi ’17, Sarah Garcia ’17, Kimberly Gutierrez ’17, Karly Jeter ’17, Bryan Quezada ’17 and John Pallera ’17 – were recognized during a special ceremony celebrating their many achievements on the eve of their graduation. The event brought together their families, friends and members of their HWS support network for a deeply meaningful celebration in Froelich Hall of the Gearan Center for the Performing Arts.
As Posse Scholars, the students are part of one of the most successful college access and youth leadership programs in the country. To date, HWS’ partnership with Posse has created access for 40 students, with a fifth cohort of 10 students arriving on campus this fall.
“What I’ve seen these four years is how hard it is to be a first,” said President Mark D. Gearan at the ceremony. “And you’re the gold standard, because every group hereafter in this dazzling, important program will bear your mark.”
During the ceremony, Deborah Bial L.H.D. ’17, the president and founder of Posse who received an honorary degree from the Colleges during Commencement, praised Gearan’s leadership for bringing the Posse program to HWS, as well as the enduring support of faculty, staff, Trustees and particularly Posse mentors. Bial said earning a degree from HWS is a gift that will open doors.
“Diversity is one of the greatest assets of this country,” Bial said. “… We need you to sit at the table where decisions get made – in Congress, in the Senate; we need you to be CEOs of Fortune 500 companies. We need you to be social entrepreneurs. We need you to lead. Not just get a ‘good job’ – we need you to lead because it is so critical that the voices of all Americans get represented.”
During an open mic session with the Scholars, Gutierrez said: “HWS gave us each other and I think that there are so many people that you meet here who change your life. … That’s how you know you’re at HWS. It’s not the places or the weather, it’s the people that you meet. It’s the people that Posse allows you to meet.”
Creer reflected on having gratitude, the importance of the Posse network and the significance of family sacrifices. “It all charts back to the sacrifices my family made and I am so eternally grateful … I just want to say thank you so much to everyone,” Creer said.
At the Posse Recognition Ceremony, Provost and Dean of Faculty Titilayo Ufomata, the Colleges’ Posse Liaison, offered the welcome, recognizing members of the HWS community who have mentored and supported Posse. Director of Posse Los Angeles Tamara Craver gave the ceremony’s introduction. Associate Director of the Centennial Center for Leadership Amy Forbes, the Posse 1 Mentor for the first graduating cohort, shared how each member of the first Posse cohort made a direct impact on her.
“To say that I am proud of you is an understatement,” Forbes said. “Not only did you prove to be exceptional students and incredible leaders, you are kind individuals with good hearts.”