Last cohort of Posse Scholars reflect on experiences at Grinnell

July 15, 2020 — Vrinda Varia, director of intercultural affairs at Grinnell, remembers the group of 10 dynamic students who entered the College in fall 2016 at a tricky moment with keen eyes on them as the last cohort of Posse Scholars.

Known as D.C. Posse 12 – the 12th cohort of Posse Scholars at Grinnell – the group from Washington D.C. is now the College’s final Posse graduating class. In conjunction with the Posse Foundation, a virtual graduation ceremony was held June 23 to celebrate their achievements.

“My favorite thing about these 10 individuals is the way they have learned to move in conflict,” Varia says. “They know how to share their thoughts and perspectives authentically as individuals and as advocates. They ask questions to gather information and navigate problems and systems with care and intentionality. They listen and pay attention. They learn to ask for help, a skill that is so underrated that we often forgot how necessary it is.  

A formal group photo of the DC Posse 12 Cohort
A formal photo of D.C. Posse 12 was shown as part of a celebratory slideshow during the Posse virtual commencement on June 23.

“Posse DC 12 is a cohort that has it all: expressive artists, gentle advocates, ethical adventurers, keen observers, inclusive team players, bold truth tellers, curious integrators, impassioned professionals, patient ralliers, and faithful friends,” Varia adds.

The virtual ceremony was attended by graduates, family members of Posse 12, Posse alumni, Posse Foundation staff members, and College faculty and staff. Some graduates donned caps and gowns for the occasion while others reflected upon what they learned the past four years.

“Being in Posse at Grinnell College has taught me to be advocate and a leader, how to love, how to reject the norm, how to be strong, how to be vulnerable and forgive, and so many other things,” says Carson Peters ’20. “I can’t image my time at Grinnell without my posse. Thank you to my mentors, advisors, and family for making my time at Grinnell so special. I am deeply grateful for all the love and support.”

Posse identifies students with academic and leadership potential who may be overlooked by traditional college recruiting methods. Posse Scholars from Los Angeles, Washington D.C., and New Orleans have been enrolled at Grinnell since 2003. College leadership announced in April 2016 the end of the relationship with the Posse Foundation in lieu of a more comprehensive approach to achieving the College’s goals for diversity and overall student success.

Group photo of the DC Posse 12 Cohort with a comment from a well wisher.
Virtual commencement attendees left plenty of well wishes and encouraging notes to D.C. Posse 12 in the comments section of the proceedings.

Several members of Posse One got to know Posse 12 students through events and retreats, including Lester Alemán ’07, a special assistant to the chief operating officer for Posse’s national office. Alemán served as the ceremony’s host.   

‘I want to tell each and every one of you that I’m very proud of all the work you’ve accomplished over four years,” Alemán said. “But what really makes me hopeful is all the work you will be doing after today.”

Another Posse One alumnus, Adam Brumer ’07, implored the newest graduates to take on leadership roles.

“You have the ability to connect with others, be disruptors, and demand and create change. These are things you have already done at Grinnell,” he says. “Now you get to do it real world full time. We hope you remain connected to your Posse. My Posse has been part of every defining moment in my life. I hope that’s also the case with D.C. Posse 12.”

The DC Posse 12 Cohort jump for joy in this group photo.
Family members, faculty, staff, and Posse alumni, top, watch photos of the graduating seniors jumping for joy during the virtual graduation.

The virtual celebration included a slideshow with photos of each the 10 graduates and their degrees. Everyone was unmuted afterwards to give the Scholars boisterous applause. The graduates and their degrees are:

  • Daniella Butler ’20, biology
  • Taylor Gaskins ’20, Spanish and English
  • Ethan Moscoso ’20, Spanish and philosophy
  • Lynn Nguyen ’20, biological chemistry
  • Carson Peters ’20, biology and global health
  • Carlos Piedrasanta ’20, educational studies
  • Alex Sorosa ’20, political science
  • Langston Thomas ’20, political science
  • Nai’ya Willis-Hogan ’20, theatre and dance, peace and conflict studies concentration
  • Sean Wright ’20, biology, environmental studies concertation

At the conclusion of the ceremony, each graduate had a chance to speak. Several thanked family members, faculty and staff, mentors, and each other.

“I’m proud of all my Posse-mates,” Thomas says. “We’ve been through a lot. You have overcome so much and you are all so amazing. I do value all of our relationships and will try to maintain those the best I can. Everyone from Grinnell supported me in direct and indirect ways. I know what I learned at Grinnell and the relationships I made will follow with me.”

Lakesia Johnson, associate professor of English, and gender, women’s, and sexuality studies, who served as the College’s chief diversity officer through the end of June, says Grinnell College will remain a part of the Posse Scholars lives no matter where they are in the world.

“I am an awe of all the things you are doing,” she said. “I know it must have been hard to leave campus the way you did. Yet you have volunteered at nursing homes and put your body between protesters and cops. Grinnell is so lucky that we had the opportunity to know you. We are here. We love you. Please stay in touch.”

— by Jeremy Shapiro

For your information:

Learn more about the College’s commitment to diversity and inclusion in the 2019-20 Grinnell College Diversity and Inclusion Plan.

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