By Ann Marie Quill

Riverwood International Charter School seniors Mae Davis, left,  and India Smith will both attend Boston University on Posse Foundation scholarships.

Riverwood International Charter School seniors Mae Davis, left, and India Smith will both attend Boston University on Posse Foundation scholarships.

High school senior Mae Davis says she could not be more excited about attending Boston University this fall, and that she’s doing so with a support system of 10 other students from the Atlanta area.

The Riverwood International Charter School student will attend the school with a full, four-year scholarship from the Posse Foundation, which, along with partner universities, sends students to college in groups of 10. This built-in support system is one reason Davis is looking forward to starting her college career.

“All of us are really close already,” she said.

They meet weekly to talk about college and social issues, and play games to strengthen their bond. They’ll continue to meet on a regular basis once college starts.

Fifty-one colleges across the country take in Posse scholars. The Posse Foundation, which says it tries to reward students who otherwise would be overlooked, has programs in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, New Orleans, New York and Washington, D.C. The Atlanta region’s partners are Bard College, Boston University, Brandeis University, Syracuse University, Texas A&M University and Wooster College.

The concept behind the Posse Foundation was conceived in 1989 when a student told the founder, “I never would have dropped out of college if I had my posse with me.”

Zenith Houston, Posse Atlanta’s director, says students are chosen based on academic performance and leadership roles. She explained that those leadership roles can be non-traditional. For example, she said, the program will consider a student “working to support a single-parent home and being able to persevere. … We also recognize that as leadership.”

Atlanta students have earned $38 million in Posse scholarships since 2007, when the program started in the region. Two hundred and eighty-nine students from Atlanta are currently attending college with a Posse scholarship.

Houston said that Posse scholars have a 90 percent college graduation rate, compared with 50 percent of all college students nationally who graduate in four years. “We’re vested in their success,” she said. “The success of our program is in our model.”

Posse meetings start once the students are awarded the scholarship while in their senior year of high school. In college, the students continue to meet with their posse and are assigned to a faculty mentor. There’s also an alumni network, with the foundation staying connected with the students after college, assisting them in finding internships and jobs.

“It’s very comforting when the students are having to navigate college for the first time to have that support base,” Houston said.

Davis is one of 60 students from Atlanta — and one of four from Riverwood in Sandy Springs — awarded the scholarship this year out of a pool of 1,200. Davis and the nine other students in her posse will attend Boston University.

Other high schools in the Atlanta area that have Posse winners include Chamblee Charter High, Cross Keys High, North Atlanta High, Atlanta Girls’ School, Holy Innocents’ Episcopal School and Marist School.

India Smith is another scholarship recipient from Riverwood planning to attend Boston University. “The most appealing aspect of the Posse program for me is the pre-collegiate training program,” she said. “Every week for eight months we meet to discuss important issues, and I feel that these sessions prepare us to continue developing our leadership skills.”

Davis says she learned about the scholarship from a Riverwood student who won the previous year. That student nominated Davis, who toured Boston University and says she fell in love with it.

Davis says she thinks her posse is a good fit for her. “All of us have different strengths and weaknesses,” she said. “We balance each other out.”

For more information: www.possefoundation.org.

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