Senior Sekai Beard is one of just 90 students out of 2,300 nominated to be named a Los Angeles Posse scholar, earning a four-year, full-tuition award to attend Kalamazoo College in Michigan. The Posse Foundation identifies, recruits and trains individuals with extraordinary leadership potential, fostering leaders who better represent the demographics of the United States through scholarships with partner colleges. (Scholarships are not need-based and are open to students of all backgrounds.)
Sekai joined Crossroads in seventh grade. She’s a four-year varsity volleyball player, Black Student Union member, Black Girl Magic co-leader and a student ambassador for the Admission Office. Sekai has a strong interest in math and science and plans to be a surgeon. We spoke to Sekai and her mother, Kelli Beard, about what the Posse scholarship means to them.
How did you first hear about the Posse program?
Kelli: We have a neighbor who’s three years ahead of Sekai and went to Wildwood. He received a Posse scholarship and nominated her for it.
What was the interview process like?
Kelli: There’s a questionnaire to fill out as part of what they call the Dynamic Assessment Process. Then there are three interviews, starting with one big group interview.
Sekai: That’s followed by an interview with a Posse representative and then another group interview, though not as large as the first one.
Kelli: With each step, the field got smaller.
How did you wind up at Kalamazoo College?
Sekai: It was my first choice out of the Posse Los Angeles partner schools. I’m going to be pre-med and they have a great program. They asked us to rate our preferences, and I gave Kalamazoo a 12 out of 10! Kalamazoo had everything that I wanted: It’s a liberal arts school with small class sizes and Division 3 volleyball. It’s a smaller city with a lot to do outdoors, and the city has a good amount of people of color. I wanted a change of pace from Los Angeles, which is fast and crowded. Kalamazoo has a small-town vibe, but right outside of it is Chicago and Detroit.
Did you apply to other colleges in case you were not chosen as a Posse scholar?
Sekai: I had been recruited for volleyball and accepted to seven different colleges through the pre-read admissions process.
Kelli: It was interesting; Sekai initially really wanted to go to Trinity, and she got in. Trinity is also a Posse school, but not for Posse Los Angeles. Sekai had offers to play on volleyball teams; she already knew she had spots in schools. But then Kalamazoo came on her radar, and she really liked it.
What do you look forward to about being a Posse scholar?
Sekai: I’m excited to take a leadership role with black and brown students younger than me. Once I get to college, there’s going to be a lot more that I can do, like presentations about Posse. I can visit schools and talk to younger kids and maybe even other college students. I already know all of the Posse students going to Kalamazoo with me. We have weekly meetings to get to know each other. I'm also looking forward to meeting the amazing network of Posse professionals to help guide me in my career.
Kelli, what should families interested in a Posse scholarship know about the program?
Kelli: If your child is nominated and the opportunity presents itself, go through the process. It’s intense, but it’s a short-lived intensity. Know that your child will have to apply early decision; there are no ifs, ands or buts about that. But I highly recommend it. Posse builds family. They’re really trying to set students up to support each other at P.W.I.s (predominantly white institutions) and be successful. Yes, you’re getting your kid into college on a full scholarship, and that’s great. But the real benefit of Posse is having that support all the way through, which increases retention and graduation rates.
Will Sekai be playing volleyball at Kalamazoo?
Kelli: Yes, which means she has to get there three weeks early. That means that she can help her Posse-mates when they get there, because she’ll already know the lay of the land. She’ll be able to help with that transition for so many kids.
Sekai: And there will be someone from my Posse who arrives a week before me, because he plays football. So, he can help me with my stuff, maybe carry my boxes up the stairs for me!