Because of the Centre Commitment, all Centre College students are guaranteed the opportunity to at least once. During the 2016-17 academic year, a special group of students did just that: all ten members of the ninth generation of Posse Scholars at Centre have studied abroad or are studying abroad this year—including their faculty mentor, Associate Professor of Education Sarah Murray.
Posse is a college access and leadership development program that provides mentoring for talented high school leaders from underrepresented urban populations. Each year, Posse sends groups of ten students each to 55 liberal arts colleges throughout the country. Centre’s Posse scholars come from Boston, though other Posse scholars hail from such cities as Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles, New Orleans and Washington, D.C.
The Posse Foundation has partnered with Centre for over ten years, and the group of juniors constituting Centre Posse 9 have been mentored by Murray since their first year.
Murray led a CentreTerm trip, three weeks devoted to intensive study, to Ghana with former Assistant Vice President and Associate Professor of Education J.H. Atkins. Posse 9 Scholar Joao Depinamonteiro ’18 was there as well, learning from Murray about being an educator in Ghanaian schools and immersing themselves in the local culture.
“Students planned activities in science, math, English and technology,” Murray says. “Even though English is the primary language in the schools, it is really a second language for most students. Centre students used ESL student-centered strategies as they implemented their lessons.”
The Posse scholars she mentors have similar opportunities abroad this academic year. Johnny Chen ’18 spent the fall 2016 semester in France with the Centre-in-Strasbourg program.
“Being able to immerse myself in the culture and actually feel like a French citizen was amazing, and it took lots of effort of finessing through adversity,” he says. “To be encouraged to study abroad during college meant to be encouraged to step out of my comfort zone.”
Chen expanded his comfort zone considerably by also traveling to other European countries and cities, including Amsterdam,Barcelona,Germany and Switzerland.
“It was an amazing experience to see all those places, because it was no longer on a TV, computer or phone screen,” he says. “It was real life.”
Also in Europe during the fall semester were Mark Figueroa ’18 and Dzeneta Velic ’18, who studied at the University of Reading in England. Both Figueroa and Velic appreciated the independence studying abroad gave them.
“Getting to be in a different country for three months is such an eye-opening experience, and I truly grew as a person. I was essentially thrown into a different country and had to navigate the ways of being in England as well as getting used to the school,” Velic says. “Studying abroad allowed me to really broaden my view on the world and experience a variety of different cultures and places.”
“It gave me a more international perspective on a multitude of aspects, ranging from lingo to customs and interests,” Figueroa agrees. “I feel as though I have come back with a different mentality that will allow me to progress in life.”
Jailene Paz ’18 and Ricardo Ortiz ’18 both spent the fall and CentreTerm semesters in Japan at Yamaguchi Prefectural University, with which Centre has an exchange program.
“I definitely learned a lot about Japan, but I also learned a lot from Japan,” says Paz. “I saw and experienced things in Japan that I had never seen in the United States. Tokyo has the population of Chicago, New York and Boston combined. I found myself overwhelmed in a good way by all there was to see.”
“Japan has a great culture. The people are so nice to you and are respectful of their environment,” says Ortiz. “Seeing another culture, especially one that is completely different from the one in America, is amazing. I think going abroad is the best experience. It gives students the ability to go to another country and see it from the perspective of a student, not a tourist.”
On the other side of the world, Peter O’Donnell ’18 and Amariah Ritchie ’18 spent the fall semester in Mexico with the Centre-in-Merida program. For O’Donnell, living in a homestay with a local woman named Doña Isabel was the highlight of the experience.
“Doña Isabel is an incredible woman who actively made my Merida experience so much better,” he says, adding, “The ability to study abroad, for me, is an honor and a privilege. I feel like I can pull from my experience of living and studying in Mexico to better myself in my classes, and more broadly, in life.”
“I thoroughly enjoyed how being abroad in Merida forced my independence,” she says. “I was forced to experience everything as it came to me, and I grew as a person.”
GiAnna Gray ’18 is currently experiencing all of these things as she spends the spring semester in Merida.
“I’ve only been here for two weeks, but I already notice an improvement in my Spanish. My homestay family has been nothing but supportive,” Gray says. “I look forward to strengthening the relationship we have and continuing to immerse myself in Mexican culture.”
Though the scholars have spent much of the 2016-17 academic year in different places, the sense of community that being part of the Posse Program at Centre has given them remains no matter their location.
“The best part about being a Posse Scholar at Centre has been the support that I have received,” O’Donnell says. “There have been many ups and downs, and my Posse has always been there every step of the way.”
“I felt very welcomed by this community of Posse scholars and mentors and affiliates,” Chen agrees. “I’ve learned a lot from them and they have helped guide me towards who I am today. I am forever grateful of that.”
“I am thankful on so many levels for the opportunity of being the CP9 mentor,” says Murray. “They have made me a better person and will always hold a special place in my heart.”
Above, clockwise from top left: Professor Sarah Murray and Joao Depinamonteiro ’18 at Wli Falls, the highest waterfall in western Africa; Mark Figueroa ’18 in Europe; Amariah Ritchie ’18 in Merida; Peter O’Donnell ’18 in the Yucatan; Johnny Chen ’18 in Europe; and Dzeneta Velic ’18 in front of Big Ben in London.
by Elizabeth Trollinger
February 23, 2017