A national nonprofit is pairing with the University of Puget Sound to place 10 Bay Area students from diverse backgrounds at the liberal arts school.

Share story

A 25-year-old program that aims to expand and diversify the pool of students who go to top-ranked colleges is partnering with the University of Puget Sound, the first school in the Northwest to be part of the program.

The Posse Foundation, a national nonprofit, looks for a diverse group of public high school students with what they describe as “extraordinary academic and leadership potential” who may be overlooked during the college selection process. The program puts them in supportive teams, called “posses,” and the students apply to partner colleges.

Posse is very good at finding students with outstanding potential, said Jenny Rickard, vice-president of enrollment at UPS. The foundation works with community-based organizations and high schools to find students who might never have applied to a liberal arts college, thinking it was beyond their means.

UPS expects to take 10 Posse students from California’s Bay Area each year, over a five-year period, starting in fall 2016. The program will pay tuition, and UPS will pay room, board and fees through donations and support of the university’s board of trustees.

Why not students from this area? While Posse is in 10 cities, Seattle is not one of them. The Bay Area office is its newest location; it also has offices in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New Orleans, New York City and Washington, D.C.

The program makes it more likely that chosen students will do well in college by giving them extra help in their senior year of high school, including training in cross-cultural communications, team building, academic excellence and leadership. When they get to college, Rickard said, the students will be paired with a mentor, and they’ll meet as a group once a week. They’ll also meet individually with the mentor every other week. That step has been shown to help improve the chances that a student will succeed academically.

The Posse Foundation has supported more than 6,300 students since its founding in 1989, and 90 percent of students in the program graduate from college — well above the national average.