Posse graduates

From left, Lehigh President Joseph J. Helble, graduates Yafet Menjetta, Abigail Santiago, Alicia Eskridge, Hamza Ali, Marley Francis, Juan Carlos Santamaria, Killa Heredia, Alejandro Del Valle Valdez and Jessica Louie, Posse 2 mentor Todd Watkins, and Posse liaison Jennifer Jensen.

Lehigh Celebrates its ‘Posse’ of Graduates

The cohort of students from the Bay Area of California are recognized for their accomplishments.

Story by

Mary Ellen Alu

Photography by

Marcus Smith

In a moving ceremony in Neville Hall, Lehigh recently celebrated the accomplishments of its second “posse” of students to graduate from the university as part of its partnership with The Posse Foundation in the Bay Area of California.

“It was an extraordinary leap of faith on their part to join the Lehigh community four years ago, so different from their California and multicultural backgrounds, and most of the Posse becoming first-generation college graduates,” said Posse 2 mentor Todd Watkins, professor of economics and executive director of the Martindale Center for the Study of Private Enterprise at Lehigh University. “I’m amazingly proud of Lehigh Posse 2.

The graduates included Yafet Menjetta, Abigail Santiago, Alicia Eskridge, Hamza Ali, Marley Francis, Juan Carlos Santamaria, Killa Heredia, Alejandro Del Valle Valdez and Jessica Louie.

todd watkins embraces a Posse graduate

Posse 2 mentor Todd Watkins, left, embraces a graduate at a moving ceremony at Neville Hall.

“It’s a testament to their collective strengths of character that they’ve absolutely thrived here, demonstrably emerging as dynamic student leaders in many high impact student organizations,” said Watkins.

He pointed to their involvements as Gryphons, Eckardt Scholars, Student Ambassadors, Data for Impact Fellows, as well as their involvements with the Black Student Union, dance groups and other organizations.

“One won Boeing’s flight design competition this year in Kansas City,” he said. “One co-founded Lehigh’s Phi Sigma Chi multicultural fraternity. One won the prestigious U.S. State Department Gilman Scholarship. One was co-author of a published peer-reviewed academic journal article assessing the impact of differences in access to financial services on COVID-19 mortality.”

posse sash

The cohort is the second one at Lehigh.

Another student led Lehigh’s group that launched the first Model-ILO (International Labor Organization), modeled after the Model-UN, he added. And one student graduated with a nearly perfect GPA—“a remarkable achievement for any student, much less one from a complicated immigrant family regularly struggling to make ends meet for even the basics.” He said the student was the first in his family to attend a university and was honored as one of the student speakers at Lehigh’s honors convocation last fall.

Jennifer Jensen, the Posse liaison and deputy provost for academic affairs at Lehigh, also noted the positive impact the students had on the university, through their scholarship and participation in campus groups and activities.

“When I think about Posse scholars, I think of leaders,” she told the graduates. “You walked onto this campus and you engaged. You joined groups, led activities, applied for and earned national awards and recognition.”

Jensen also encouraged the Posse scholars to maintain their ties over time. “This is a bond that will continue over the years. So, nourish that bond.”

The “posse” had arrived on the Lehigh campus for the Fall 2019 semester—the second cohort to head to Lehigh from the Bay Area as part of the ongoing partnership, which aims to expand educational opportunities for a diverse group of high school students with academic and leadership potential who might not otherwise have considered applying to the university.

Story by

Mary Ellen Alu

Photography by

Marcus Smith

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