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Huan Hsu highlighted the wide array of outcomes that bright and talented urban high school students experience at college. As the director of the D.C. office of the Posse Foundation, a college access, retention, and diversity program, I see dozens of talented, college-bound students go through and overcome struggles similar to those of the students interviewed.
What was especially moving to me was the students’ collective depiction of their college experiences and their stories about remaining in college. The group articulated many struggles that our Posse Scholars also experience once they get to campus, including culture shock, lack of racial and ethnic representation on campus, medical and mental health challenges, lack of academic preparation, a sense of isolation, and the responsibility of living up to expectations from friends and family back home. Fortunately, Posse Scholars attend top-tier colleges as part of a multicultural team that acts as a support to one another. This support group helps alleviate the aforementioned stresses and allows our scholars to persist and graduate at over 90 percent.
It is important for D.C. as a community to find ways to ensure that our college-bound high school students not only have access to higher education but are also able to complete college. The national landscape of college trends is alarming as one considers the increasing racial and gender gaps in admissions, the rapidly increasing cost of tuition, and the decreasing number of students graduating from four-year colleges. Since a bachelor’s degree is one of the biggest indicators of future earning potential, it is our responsibility as a community to ensure that students who chose to attend college are able to flourish on campus and bring their college experiences into the work world.
Thank you again for celebrating the hard work of the valedictorians from the classes of 1995 and 1996 and their hard-fought successes post–high school.