Ten students were selected from a pool of more than 200 applicants to become part of the college’s second cohort of veteran students participating in the Posse Foundation program initiated with Vassar in 2012.
The first-of-its-kind Posse Veterans Program aims to increase the number of veterans who attend and graduate from selective colleges and universities.
The selected veterans are Patrick DeYoung (Philadelphia, PA), Sidney Johnson (Oceanport, NJ), Keith Kohlmann (Belleville, NJ), Nicole Leadenham (Shrewsbury, MA), Vincent Lenart (Hammond, IN), Huy Nguyen (Fort Drum, NY), Tanya Painter (Bronx, NY), Antoine Robinson (Glen Cove, NY), Jonathan Snyder (Danielson, CT), and Teresa Stout (Virginia Beach, VA).
Collectively, they have completed service in the Army, Army National Guard, Navy, and Marines, and they include recipients of the Purple Heart and Bronze Star medals. One member went on to intern for six months with First Lady Michelle Obama’s staff to help develop the “Joining Forces” initiative for military families. All 10 have college or university experience, including some who were attending a community college when they applied through the program.
Family members joined the veterans for a Posse induction ceremony in Manhattan this past January, along with President Catharine Hill; William Plapinger ’74, P’10, chairman of the Vassar College Board of Trustees; Benjamin Lotto, dean of studies, professor of mathematics, and the veterans’ faculty mentor; Posse Foundation founder and president Deborah Bial; members of Vassar’s first group of posse veterans; and other well-wishers. The infor software design firm, which provides major financial support for the Posse Veterans Program, hosted the event at its Manhattan headquarters.
“You will all bring exceptional life experience and achievement to the Vassar community,” President Hill told the college’s second cohort of veteran students.
Trustee and alumnus Henry Johnson ’88 offered a hearty welcome on behalf of his fellow graduates. “There’s a vast association of Vassar alumnae and alumni waiting for you. We’re an enormous network, a posse like you’ve never seen, and we look forward to welcoming you to our ranks,” Johnson proclaimed.
The first 11 veterans to participate in the Posse Veterans Program enrolled as part of Vassar’s freshman class last fall. Several members of the original group attended the ceremony. During an open discussion, they took the opportunity to offer words of advice to the new “posse.” Eduardo de la Torre ’17 told Vassar’s incoming veterans: “You will probably find this experience counterintuitive from the military way, or the way you would expect to think, but open yourself up to thinking differently.”
“The opportunity is yours but not just yours,” added fellow posse member Fernando Braga ’17. “It’s very different from the military but also very much like the military. When things come up, you can look to your left and right and know someone is there for you.”
President Hill initially phoned Posse Foundation founder and president Deborah Bial in 2012 to suggest the idea of partnering on this kind of veterans program. “In a split second, I knew it was a great idea. And believe me—many people approach me with proposals and they are typically rejected,” Bial explained during the induction ceremony. Within two weeks of the initial phone conversation, an agreement was signed between the college and the foundation.
Based on the Posse Foundation’s successful cohort model, each veteran attends college as part of a small group (“posse”) of students—in this case, of fellow veterans—who receive academic support prior to matriculating and continued mentoring once enrolled. Vassar is also supplementing available GI Bill® and Yellow Ribbon funding to guarantee full tuition for every veteran student selected. Since 1989, the Posse Foundation has found and prepared promising students from diverse urban backgrounds to attend selective colleges in posse cohorts.
In November 2013, the Posse Veterans Program received a $1.2 million Global Impact Award from Google, as part of over $3 million in new funding that the program has gained in recent months.
This fall, Wesleyan University became the second institution to join the Posse Veterans Program. Its group of 10 veterans also attended the ceremony in January.