City Year Chicago’s got a POSSE!

The Posse Foundation creates opportunities for countless high performing students living in urban, under-served areas — giving them the chance to achieve at a four-year higher education institution. By helping these students succeed, The Posse Foundation, in turn, is contributing to the continued success of City Year. The impact of this relationship is felt no more than at City Year Chicago with five Posse alumni now serving at three of our partner schools.

Corps members Jennifer Colon, Puracarina Gonzalez, Robert Reed III, Maria Munoz and Nana Otutua-Amoah are all Posse Foundation alumni who hail from Chicago. Three of those corps members — Robert, Maria and Nana — are all serving at Manley Career Academy High School in Chicago’s North Lawndale community. Jennifer and Puracarina are both tutoring and mentoring 6th through 8th graders at the Morton School of Excellence and the Harvard School of Excellence, respectively.

With financial, emotional and educational support from Posse, Nana was able to attend and graduate from DePauw University in Greencastle, IN.  Nana said that her passion for working with children, and her experience with Posse, prompted her to apply for City Year Chicago .

“I was looking for a way to get exposed to a high school environment, and City Year was popping up all the time in emails from Posse so I decided to apply,” Nana said. “In January I went to an internship and career fair with Posse and Steph [Chavez, Recruitment Manager at CYCHI] was there and she completely sold City Year to me. Talking to her is what got me to finish my application.”

Corps member Robert Reed III talks with a student in the American Lit class he's supporting at Manley Career Academy High School.

For Nana, Robert and Maria it didn’t take long at all to adjust to City Year culture. Diversity workshops and team building are integral parts of the Posse Foundation‘s college readiness program.

“What City Year corps members went through during BTR (Basic Training Academy) and ATR (Advanced Training Academy) — all of the diversity trainings, the privilege line, the experience sharing — we were familiar with those activities because we did them with Posse,” Robert, a recent graduate of the University of Illinois, said. “Posse and City Year have the same kind of goals; being quick to help and slow to judge comes naturally to me because I’ve been in these situations before.”

Maria grew up on the South Side of Chicago and attended Noble Street Charter School here in Chicago. Maria, like all Posse Foundation participants, was one of 10 students selected from her high school to apply for the Posse program. After an intensive application and interview process, Maria received notification that she was accepted to her first choice school — University of Wisconsin at Madison.  Maria was soon introduced to her “posse” — a group of 10 students who would also attend UWM and with whom she would spend the next four years going through all the ups and downs of college life.

Posse really taught me and the people in my group how to become leaders on campus,” Maria said. “Throughout college I saw the people in my ‘posse’ once a week, and they became a great resource for me in terms of support and networking.”

Posse finds the best of the best in schools and gives them the skills and opportunities to graduate college.

“They already knew we doing well academically so Posse focused on teaching us how to succeed socially and emotionally in college,” Robert said. “With our ‘posse’ we had a built-in support system, and the diversity workshops allowed for us to deal with any culture shock we might experience upon going away for school.”

This proved to be especially important for Nana — who was the first person in her family to attend college.

“My freshman year I was struggling to balance school and home so during my sophomore year I really started using my ‘posse’ for help,” Nana said. “I still keep in touch with them even though we’ve all graduated.”

For Robert, Maria and Nana City Year was an obvious next step. Working on a team was nothing new to the corps members, and what they learned via the Posse Foundation also played a helpful role when working with their students.

“I can relate to the students because of what I’ve learned from the varying experiences of my ‘posse,’ who all came from urban, Chicago backgrounds.”

Watch and listen as Nana explains how Posse and City Year intertwine.


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