To And Through: Four Sci Academy Seniors are Selected for Prestigious College Scholarships

As 2014 drew to a close, four Sci Academy seniors celebrated the end of a lengthy college application process. After months of campus visits, dozens of late nights refining and editing personal statements, and a series of intense group and individual interviews, J’Remi Barnes, Tyanna Crump, Hassan Thompson, and Jada Woods learned that they had been selected among dozens of qualified candidates across the city and country for Posse and QuestBridge scholarships.

These life-changing scholarships will fund four years of college and provide support for job and internship counseling, first-generation services and mentorship, and valuable guidance throughout the transition to college and beyond. While other scholarships provide financial assistance, these programs are among the most robust—and most selective—opportunities available for low-income students, and they focus on persistence and graduation in addition to college enrollment. Both programs provide crucial support systems and mentors who help kids as they tackle all of the challenges and new experiences of starting college and staying enrolled—from financial difficulties to new social situations.

“These scholarships are an incredible way to get very talented low-income kids to enroll in prestigious colleges,” says Sheena Reed, Sci Academy’s Director of College Counseling. “Both programs are opening up so many doors for our students.” Collectively, the four scholars who received these prestigious awards have earned over $800,000 for four years of college.

Posse Scholarship: Founded in 1989, the Posse Scholarship provides a full-tuition scholarship to students. The program is incredibly competitive: in 2014, 16,000 students applied for just 680 spots across the nation. In addition to financial support, the program is grounded in the following key elements:

QuestBridge Scholarship: The QuestBridge Scholarship is designed for high-performing scholars from low-income backgrounds. Eligible candidates often come from families earning $60,000 or less annually for a family of four. Like the Posse Scholarship, QuestBridge provides full-tuition support, but it also supplements the cost of attendance with additional grants for room and board, travel stipends, books, and more. Like Posse, QuestBridge selects a very small percentage of applicants: out of over 12,000 applicants in 2013, 440 were accepted through the match program.

As a network that values growth, we encourage our scholars and our schools to pursue new and greater achievements every year. These scholarships are truly groundbreaking—both for the scholars who will benefit from the huge array of resources that they offer, and for our schools and network. We couldn’t be prouder of these scholars or more excited to watch them embark on new experiences that will help them begin a future of limitless possibilities.

We sat down with our Posse Scholars (J’Remi, Hassan, and Jada), our Questbridge Scholar (Tyanna), and Sheena Reed, their guide throughout the application process, to learn more about what makes these scholars stand out, what they are most excited for, and the journey that led them here.

Who is J’Remi Barnes? “J’Remi is a model to other students. He will do everything in his power to make sure our scholars with special needs are involved and included. He regularly spends time in our Essential Skills class and is genuinely invested in engaging with scholars with special needs. He’s a great teacher, an actor, and a musician. He is currently trained as a youth minister and is interested in studying music ministry. He is really looking to build his craft, study music more formally, and become an even stronger performer.” —Sheena Reed

What this scholarship means to me: Without this scholarship, a college like Grinnell would probably not have been attainable for me. I’m not the valedictorian or at the very top of my class, but I have a lot of other things to offer. This scholarship proves that I can be just as successful as anyone else, and it will set me up for my future. College won’t be the end for me—I’m just getting started. It’s more of a “To be continued!”

How Sci Academy helped me get here: Sci gave me the opportunity to develop into the person I am. The communication skills I have, Sci Academy taught me them. I wouldn’t talk the way I do, I wouldn’t respond the way I do, if I hadn’t come here. I’m the person I am because of Sci!

Activities I want to try in college: I know it will be cold, so I want to go ice-skating. I’m really intrigued by the leotard! I’m excited to take math classes because math is my favorite subject, and I know that I will get involved in all kinds of music clubs, like a capella. I saw one of the Grinnell a capella teams perform—it was a joke performance, and they were all dressed up in their swimwear, but it looked like a lot of fun. There is so much more I want to do and learn, and I can’t wait to study abroad. I’ve discovered a lot of my passions here, but I can’t wait to see what else there is for J’Remi Barnes to do.

Who is Hassan Thompson? “Hassan just shines. He has an incredible presence. He is charismatic, and unafraid to go into new environments and try new things. He may be nervous and fearful at first, but he is always curious and excited. He is so great about bringing people together. There’s a playfulness and a love about him that people just can’t help but enjoy.” —Sheena Reed

The most challenging part of the application process: During the interviews, we were thrown into activities where you have to get comfortable quickly and you have to make big decisions. They threw scenarios and problems at us to see how we would work through them. For one of the scenarios, we had to pretend that we were a president at a university where a student who was part of the LGBT community wanted to be part of a religious club but was facing resistance. How would you handle the situation? They were really looking for community involvement and leadership skills.

What I’m most excited about: I am just so excited for school and my classes. I want to figure out my passions and what I will do when I grow up. For the rest of my life, I know that Posse will really help me out. I can tell how welcoming the Grinnell community is already. So many people have started to reach out to introduce themselves, including alumni and coaches.

How Sci Academy helped me get here: Sci Academy completely put college on my radar. It wasn’t until I got here that it hit me that I would one day be on my own. Before I got here, I didn’t even know anything about my cumulative GPA or the ACT.

Activities I want to try in college: I’m looking forward to late night study sessions, all the things that you see on television. I’m excited to feel all of those emotions people feel when you hear about studying for final exams and things like that. I’m looking forward to bringing what I learn back with me to New Orleans to build back my community.

Who is Jada Woods? “Jada is not to be played with. She is an extremely hard worker, and very determined. She is quieter than most people, but she is just so genuine, committed, and focused. When she was writing her personal statement, it was just so effortless because she was telling the truth. Her essay was about Hurricane Katrina and how her experiences helped her realize she wants to be a doctor. So many people helped her when she was displaced, and she wants to help other people who don’t have access to basic services. Her story is so intrinsic to her identity.” —Sheena Reed

College: Bard College in Annandale-on-Hudson, New York

What this scholarship means to me: Honestly, this scholarship is truly amazing. It takes a lot of pressure off of me and my family. I always knew I would go to college, but knowing that I have this support will really set me up for success. I love that Posse doesn’t drop you after you graduate from college. You will continue to have connections and a support system that will always be there to help you.

How Sci Academy helped me get here: Before I came to Sci, I wasn’t about college or anything. I was a terrible student. You wouldn’t have wanted me in your class! Sci Academy made me realize that I could actually do something with my life, and make a change if I apply myself.

Activities I want to try in college: I really just want to get the full college experience. I want to try everything! I know I want to become a neurosurgeon, so Ms. Reed and I have already looked at some pre-med programs. There is a remote access program where I can volunteer with low-income people, and I’m also interested in Doctors Without Borders. Bard has two partnerships with hospitals that I can work for, and there is a club where I can get paid to train as an EMT. I know I’ll also do basketball, like I’ve done in high school. I’ve got to make sure to stay in shape!

Advice I’d give to other scholars: The most important thing I would tell other scholars that might want to apply to Posse is that they need to find their story. Everyone has a story, and it’s up to you to figure it out. The way you tell and communicate your story is what makes you unique. Ms. Reed taught me that. It was hard, but it helped me so much.

Who is Tyanna Crump? “What can I say about Tyanna? She is lovely in all of the ways a person can be. She’s so thoughtful and outgoing, and extremely creative. I’m very excited for her to get back into art and illustration in college, because she is so talented. She’s in the top two in her class, but she’s still so invested in the success of others. When she was doing well in her independent reading class but other students were struggling, she suggested a whole new system for teaching the course, and we adopted it. Attending a high school with a diversity of experiences was extremely important to her. She is so thoughtful about what it means to be a part of a community, and she thinks critically about race, class, our school, and our city.” —Sheena Reed

College: Wellesley College in Wellesley, Massachusetts

Why I chose Wellesley: Wellesley has so many cool programs and classes. I am really excited to be matched with the school. At Wellesley, I can take classes at other schools in their consortium, like Brandeis. Wellesley is an all women’s college. I think it will be really great to be surrounded by a bunch of women who are just as powerful as any man.

What I am most excited about: I’ve always pushed myself to be better, to work extremely hard. I want to be in a place where I can tell myself that all the hard work has been worth it. I am excited to be surrounded by people who are passionate about the things they love, and who are committed to their work.

How Sci Academy helped me get here: Ms. Reed, my college counselor—her name should be in bold with a font of 30! She has taken so much time to connect us to specific scholarships that are applicable to us. A lot of students at other schools still aren’t able to get that help. It really makes me want to come back after college.

Activities I want to try in college: I want to do studio art and creative writing along with psychology. Being at Sci Academy surrounded by so many different perspectives has really encouraged me to study psychology. It’s showed me the kind of people in the world, the kind of people who live in our city. I’m also excited to get back into my writing and my art. I’m looking forward to breaking out of my shell.

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