Taft AVID Seniors Win Posse Scholarship


Rodriguez (left) and Banuelos (right) pose in their DePauw and University of Wisconsin gear.

Vivian Aviles, Editor-in-Chief

After months of interviewing and writing essays, Taft AVID seniors Aleena Banuelos and Madison Rodriguez were awarded the Posse scholarship that will cover their full college tuition. 

The Posse scholarship is a full-tuition scholarship that is given by the Posse Foundation. The process of selecting a Posse scholar starts at the end of junior year when teachers, faculty, and Posse alumni nominate students to be selected as Posse nominees, and then that group of students is cut down to those who will advance to the next stages. The first round of interviews is then conducted by Posse staff, and after each interview, more students are cut. At some point during the interview process, nominees must select their top five schools from the list of Posse partners, and the students are then matched with who Posse believes will be their best fit. If nominees accept the school that Posse has chosen for them, they advance to the final round of interviews. As a finalist, nominees will participate in a group interview with other finalists for the same school, and all finalists will be interviewed by Posse staff and admissions counselors of whatever school the nominees have matched with. After this final interview, the admissions committee of the particular school will select nine to ten students to offer the award to. 

“When I was first nominated for Posse, I honestly had no idea what it was. After doing research and finding out how huge of a deal it was, I felt honored and proud to be recognized,” said Banuelos. 

Posse nominees are informed of their nomination via email from their high school administration and the Posse foundation itself. However, nominees are not informed of who their nominator was. 

“At first I had no idea who nominated me, but I was extremely honored that someone felt I possessed the qualities to be part of Posse,” said Rodriguez. 

Because only a few students from around the country actually end up getting the scholarship, at first, Banuelos did not believe she really had a chance. 

“To be honest, I was really intimidated by all the other nominees. Although I knew there was a possibility of me becoming a Posse scholar, I didn’t think it would actually happen.” 

One of the first steps of starting the Posse scholarship process is to choose a few of the Posse partner colleges and universities that spark interest. 

“All of the schools that Posse is partnered with are unique and amazing in their own ways. In the beginning of this process though, I was specifically interested in DePauw University, Pomona College, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Trinity College, and Cornell University,” said Rodriguez.

Banuelos shared similar interests with Rodriquez after reviewing the list of Posse partners. 

“I was really interested in the University of Wisconsin-Madison and DePauw University,” said Banuelos. 

As the start of senior year began, so did the first round of Posse interviews. 

“The first interview was three hours long. I had no idea what to expect, but once we logged into the meeting, music was playing, the chat was going, and I felt a lot better. It consisted of breakout rooms, writing an essay, and answering questions,” said Banuelos. 

After Rodriguez and Banuelos discovered they were advancing to the next round, more work needed to be done. 

“There was definitely a sufficient amount of work that we had to do to prepare for each round, whether that was writing another essay, updating our Posse portals, or getting more letters of recommendation,” said Rodriguez. 

The seniors eventually made it far enough to have to narrow down their schools of interest into their top three choices. Banuelos chose University of Wisconsin-Madison as her top choice, DePauw University as her second choice, and Cornell University as her third choice. Rodriguez chose DePauw University, Pomona College, and University of Wisconsin-Madison as her options. 

When Posse announced the individuals who would be advancing as finalists, Banuelos and Rodriguez were actually together. 

“I was with Madison when I found out that I became a finalist. We immediately jumped into the air, screaming. It was hilarious because it felt like something straight out of a movie. I even ran into her arms and she spun me in a circle. Becoming a finalist for my top-choice, let alone University of Wisconsin-Madison, made me feel triumphant considering it was one of the more competitive schools to become a finalist for,” said Banuelos. 

“Aleena was with me when I found out I was a finalist. Being with each other and finding out we were finalists was extremely overwhelming and exciting. We both could not wait to be a part of the final round,” said Rodriguez. 

After completing their final interviews, both girls were filled with anticipation as they awaited a decision. 

“My final interview ended around 7:30 P.M. Posse told us that they would get back to us within the next four to five days. That night, though, I got a text from my Posse trainer to log back into the Zoom call because they wanted to ask me a “quick question.” I logged back on and the University of Wisconsin and Posse staff were all on the call. They then presented me with the exciting news that I won, and I broke down into happy tears (I literally sobbed on the call..and my camera was on),” said Banuelos. 

Though Banuelos was celebrating a victory, Rodriguez was dealing with disappointment. 

“After the final round, I actually got an email from Posse saying that they unfortunately could not offer me a spot within the DePauw Posse. I was definitely upset because this would have allowed me to go to my number one school, be a part of an amazing support group, and help my family and I tremendously when it came to financial aid. I knew that everyone in the finalist round deserved to be there, so despite me not winning, I was extremely proud of the other 10 students that did,” said Rodriguez. 

About one month had passed since Rodriguez was informed of her loss when she suddenly received a phone call from Posse. 

“Someone had dropped out of the DePauw Posse. Posse and DePauw then reconvened and decided that they wanted me to fill the empty spot. I was so shocked and was not expecting this call whatsoever, but felt honored that they decided to call me. My parents and I then toured the school the day after I got the call. We were amazed by what we saw and what the school had to offer. When I got home that night after the tour, I immediately called that Posse staff member back and accepted the spot,” said Rodriguez. 

It’s been a few months since the girls have been notified of their win, and both Rodriguez and Banuelos have had time to reflect on their overall experience. 

“Right now, to say I am the proudest I’ve ever been would be an understatement. The outcome of the whole eight-month long process was something that I would not have expected to happen to me, but I am very grateful to have this experience to say the least. Being a part of the UW Posse is something that I am so appreciative of and I cannot wait for what is to come,” said Banuelos. 

As all seniors will be starting college in only a few months, the excitement for a new beginning is setting in, especially for Rodriguez and Banuelos as they already know where they’ll be attending. 

“I’m looking forward to getting involved within the school and seeing eventually what path I will end up taking major-wise. DePauw has a wide range of opportunities for their students, and I am excited to see what this school has in store for me,” said Rodriguez. 

Rising seniors can learn more about the Posse scholarship here, and teachers who are looking to nominate a student can get more information about the nomination process here.