Three talented and enthusiastic students from Park Slope’s Secondary School for Law were chosen for the “Posse” scholarship last month, earning free college tuition in recognition of their outstanding leadership skills.
Launched in 1989, the Posse program seeks to give public school students in urban areas a better chance of succeeding in college by sending them to top colleges and universities in groups of 10. These groups, or “posses,” act as support systems to help smooth the difficult adjustment that often beset students from urban areas.
Students are chosen on the basis of their leadership skills and how well they function in groups.
A look at the three students chosen from the Secondary School for Law, one of three small schools that comprise the John Jay Campus Schools, bears this out.
Noorjahan Deolalo is just 18 years old, but the aspiring lawyer is the de facto manager of the Bushwick building owned by her mother, who works seven days a week as a home attendant.
Deolalo — who will attend Dickinson College in Pennsylvania next year as a pre-law student — has older siblings who have been incarcerated. So as a youngster, she resolved “to be on the right side of the law,” as she put it. She became involved in the Red Hook Youth Court, where she helps young people who have committed misdemeanors get a second chance and make the most of it.
In school, the Bushwick resident is perhaps the school’s most well-respected student tutor. She also helps students with their college applications as a member of College Summit, a national non-profit that helps guide urban students through what is often a frightening and alienating college admissions process.
“People don’t know how much scholarship money is out there and how many opportunities there are,” she said of her work with College Summit.
“All New York City residents are guaranteed at least community college. If someone doesn’t take advantage of their opportunities, that’s really said.”
Accompanying Deolalo to Dickinson will be David Cruz, a 17-year-old who plans on going into either computer science or engineering.
The Sheepshead Bay resident’s leadership skills are readily apparent in two things he is passionate about: his church and football.
At his church, the charismatic Cruz serves as a deacon; on the football field, he is a middle linebacker for the Brooklyn Wolverines youth football team. He plans to play football at Dickinson.
Middle linebackers are often referred to as the quarterbacks of the defense. Cruz said that playing the position “helped me communicate better and have better teammate skills. [Posse] was looking for a strong leader and a team player, so I think that showed that I had those qualities.”
Last summer, Cruz had an internship at NASA’s Guided Space Flight Institute, and also studied ponds with a professor from Columbia University, experiences that reflected both his work ethic and deep scientific curiosity.
The multi-talented Cruz is also a member of the drama and swimming clubs at school. Perhaps he takes the most pride in helping raise his younger sister.
Last but not least, the third Posse scholar was 17-year-old Joaquin Brito, who will attend Wheaton College in Massachusetts next year.
The Bay Ridge resident spent much of his childhood in Sunset Park, where he became involved with UPROSE, Brooklyn’s oldest Latino community-based organization. At UPROSE, Brito worked on environmental justice issues and youth outreach.
Brito’s community activism doesn’t end there: Among other activities, he is involved in Project Reach Youth, the Brooklyn organization that assists and advocates for low-income communities, as well as College Summit, where he works alongside Deolalo.
He credits his many extracurricular activities with making him more outgoing.
“I used to be a really shy kid, but [the extracurriculars] really got me out of my shell,” he said.
Like Cruz, Brito is another student-athlete, playing baseball with the Parkville Youth Organization. An infielder and pitcher, Brito has a deep arsenal of pitches that he plans to test against college competition.