Winter 2023–2024

The Enduring Impact of Babson’s Posse Scholars

Four portraits of Posse Scholars side-by-side

An Emmy Award-winning documentary film editor. The founder of a nonprofit for at-risk youth. A higher education leader and youth advocate. The United Nations Foundation’s director for ocean and climate.

These are just a few of the professional milestones achieved by Babson’s Posse Scholars. The scholarship program celebrates its 20th anniversary at Babson this year, with a rich tradition of transformation and inspiration—and an impressive 97% graduation rate.

BABSON MAGAZINE: Read the complete Winter 2023–2024 issue.

Posse is different from many scholarship programs. It recruits promising public high school students in U.S. cities to consider elite schools offering scholarships, faculty mentoring, and leadership opportunities. The selection process is thoughtful and deliberate, transcending grades or standardized test scores as qualified students demonstrate their leadership potential, collaboration skills, motivation, and drive to succeed. Each year, Babson College works with the Posse Foundation to select a 10-person cohort, or “posse,” from a pool of more than 3,000 New York City high school students to receive Babson-funded, full-tuition leadership scholarships.

Once at Babson, these small groups form close ties through weekly mentorship meetings with professors and at their signature PossePlus Retreat, held at the outset of the spring semester. Each Posse Scholar invites a classmate, plus faculty and staff, to spend a weekend discussing complex themes, such as Identity and Polarization in American Society, and Hope, Hate, and Race.

Babson is the only business-focused school among Posse’s 63 partner colleges and universities around the country, although its graduates go on to excel in a variety of fields and endeavors, as the following exemplary alumni illustrate.

Jenny Estevez-Cray poses for a portrait
Jenny Estevez-Cray ’08 is the senior director of talent and operations for OneGoal. (Photo: Mario Morgado)

Jenny Estevez-Cray ’08: Space to Succeed

Jenny Estevez-Cray ’08 joined the first cohort of Babson Posse Scholars in 2004, although going to college once seemed impossible. Estevez-Cray came to New York City from the Dominican Republic and was raised in a single-parent home. Her high school guidance counselor told her not to bother looking at colleges.

“But, my U.S. history teacher said: ‘No. You’re going to make it. You’re an excellent student. I’m going to support you through this journey.’ She nominated me for Posse, and it changed my life. I wouldn’t be where I am today without it,” Estevez-Cray says.

She discovered Babson through the Posse interview process, and the small class sizes appealed to her, especially coming from a large high school. So did the down-to-earth faculty and staff interviewers. She accepted Babson’s scholarship before even visiting the campus.

“I just felt it in me: This is the school, even as a New York City kid coming to the suburbs,” she says.

“She nominated me for Posse, and it changed my life. I wouldn’t be where I am today without it.”
Jenny Estevez-Cray ’08

Despite graduating at the height of the 2008 recession—with a banking job offer rescinded as a result—Estevez-Cray bounced back, working at the Posse Foundation as a program coordinator. The detour changed her career trajectory. Now, instead of investment banking, she continues to mentor students for Posse. Estevez-Cray also is the senior director of talent and operations for OneGoal, a postsecondary advising program that works with high schools in low-income communities and enables more students to enroll in and graduate from postsecondary programs. Estevez-Cray is especially passionate about supporting marginalized youth as they begin their postsecondary journey. Estevez-Cray and her wife live in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, and she hopes to create safe spaces for students in every possible way.

“I think of kids who were just like me, who needed one person to help them—that one person who said: ‘You’ve got this,’ ” she says.

Kerrlene Wills poses for a portrait
Kerrlene Wills ’12 is the director for ocean and climate at the United Nations Foundation. (Photo: Mario Morgado)

Kerrlene Wills ’12: Change on a Global Scale

“Statistically, I probably shouldn’t have made it out of Queens,” says Kerrlene Wills ’12, the director for ocean and climate at the United Nations Foundation. Her parents came to the Far Rockaway area from Guyana, a Caribbean country on the South American continent. College wasn’t necessarily a priority as a teenager: She struggled a bit in early high school, but she came into her own with time.

“I think my guidance counselor saw something in me: ‘This girl is a leader.’ He changed the direction of my life,” Wills says. “When I got the Posse Scholarship, I realized that not only was I good enough, but people actually thought I was smart and capable of doing amazing things—and I got to go to the top business school in the country for entrepreneurship. It opened doors.”

Still, Babson was a bit of a culture shock, she says. Posse provided a built-in network of friendship and support.

“When I got the Posse Scholarship, I realized that not only was I good enough, but people actually thought I was smart and capable of doing amazing things.”
Kerrlene Wills ’12

“Some people are born with networks already built in. It’s innate in your legacy. Posse builds that in for people: It gives them a network that they probably wouldn’t have had, while I also met people from all over the world,” she says.

After Babson, Wills earned a master’s degree in law and diplomacy from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. Today, her work takes her far from Queens. Prior to joining the U.N. Foundation, she was the Chargée d’Affaires a.i. (Head of Mission) at the Permanent Mission of Guyana in Geneva, where she led negotiations on fisheries subsidies at the World Trade Organization for Guyana and for the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Group. In Geneva, she was the regional coordinator for the Group of Americas (GRUA) countries at the World Health Organization, where she facilitated the regional response to global health challenges, including COVID-19.

Now, Wills serves on the climate and environment team at the United Nations Foundation. The job requires diplomacy and negotiation, skills she sharpened as a Posse Scholar.

“Some people don’t believe in climate change. At Posse, I learned how to bring all sides together, and to think critically,” she says. “Posse gives people an avenue to be leaders.”

Sedonami Agosa poses for a portrait
Sedonami Agosa ’20 launched the nonprofit ClearPathNYC as a student at Babson. (Photo: Mario Morgado)

Sedonami Agosa ’20: Entrepreneurship in Action

Graduating in the midst of a pandemic is challenging. Balancing a full-time job as a risk analysis specialist at Bank of America while spearheading a nonprofit is probably even harder, but Sedonami Agosa ’20 does both.

As a Babson student, Agosa launched ClearPathNYC, a portal for young adults aging out of New York City’s foster care system, as well as other homeless youth. It offers access to academic, housing, mental wellness, and professional development resources as they transition to independent life.

Agosa created the nonprofit as his capstone project as a Natalie Taylor Scholar, a Babson program in which students work on social impact and community engagement initiatives. The effort is personal: Agosa grew up in lower-income housing on Staten Island, and he witnessed the effects of poverty firsthand.

“In high school, I would collect chocolate bar wrappers. On the back, it would say, ‘Buy one Whopper, get one free.’ I’d find young adults, people hanging around Burger King, opening doors for people, and I’d go and talk to them. I’d buy them a Whopper and talk about the issues they were going through,” Agosa says.

“The Posse program consistently instilled in us the confidence that we belong here. We are the cream of the crop.”
Sedonami Agosa ’20

COVID-19 accelerated the homelessness crisis, and it also accelerated his mission: He launched the project in March 2020, debuting it to the public that August, shortly after his graduation.

Now, he balances his full-time job with the nonprofit, something he feels confident doing thanks to his Posse community, with whom he’s still in close touch today.

“Posse gave me an avenue to distill my voice,” he says.

And, as a first-generation college student, Agosa says that his cohort provided support during a turbulent time, long before COVID-19 and ClearPath even began.

“In 2016, there was already animosity happening across the country,” Agosa says. “Through Posse, there are people who not only know you but are from the same city, from where you call home, in a space that isn’t your home. The Posse program consistently instilled in us the confidence that we belong here. We are the cream of the crop.”

Sammy Dane poses for a portrait with his Emmy Award
Sammy Dane ’15 won an Emmy Award as co-editor of the documentary The First Wave. (Photo: Mario Morgado)

Sammy Dane ’15: The Business of Creativity

While filmmaking and business school might not seem like a natural match, Sammy Dane ’15 says that creativity and entrepreneurship are tightly linked.

“We talked a lot about Entrepreneurial Thought & Action®, and my biggest takeaway from it was creative problem solving, and in that sense, I found a lot of kindred spirits on campus,” Dane says.

Dane first came to prominence as an editor on The First Wave, the documentary film that tracked healthcare workers at Long Island Jewish Medical Center in Queens, New York, during COVID-19’s terrifying initial months.

“I had to set up my computer on a kitchen table and start immediately watching footage of my fellow New Yorkers dying. It was really awful,” he remembers. “All we were seeing at the time were numbers on the news. To actually see the healthcare heroes we were clapping for at 7 o’clock, to actually see them saving lives, completely changed me.”

“We talked a lot about Entrepreneurial Thought & Action, and my biggest takeaway from it was creative problem solving, and in that sense, I found a lot of kindred spirits on campus.”
Sammy Dane ’15

Though he was hired as an assistant editor, Dane rose to become a co-editor by the film’s end; the film won an Emmy Award for Outstanding Editing. Meanwhile, he just completed working on American Symphony, which follows Oscar- and Grammy-winning composer Jon Batiste—one of The First Wave’s composers—as he prepares for a performance at Carnegie Hall while grappling with his wife Suleika Jaouad’s leukemia relapse.

“To see every second of a person’s life, when they’re having a child, or overcoming a disease, or creating a symphony? It’s such a precious gift that I’m handed, to try to make art out of it,” he says.

It’s a talent he developed at Babson, Dane says. “I’m not the best public speaker. I’m not the best protester. But, I’m really good at listening, asking questions, and putting the things I’m able to capture together in a way that can potentially forward a movement, more than I ever could with my own voice. It’s something that Babson students and faculty really champion: How can I make the most impact with my skill set?”

Dane remains close with his Posse cohort. In fact, he recently enjoyed a 30th birthday dinner with almost all of his Posse peers.

“It feels really rare to maintain such a close bond eight years out of school,” Dane says. “Four of us are getting married this year. Most of us are going to each other’s weddings. Two of us are marrying each other.”

It sounds just like a movie.

To make a donation in support of Babson’s Posse program, click here

Posted in Community, Entrepreneurial Leadership

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