PossePlus Retreat Review: 2015, Crime and Punishment

Posted by on March 20, 2015

By Liz Shriver

This year, I had the distinct honor to attend the PossePlus Retreat with the University of Pennsylvania Posse scholars, friends, faculty and staff allies. This year’s theme was “Crime and Punishment.”

The Posse Foundation provides full college scholarships for cohorts of students from underserved areas. Students are selected to become part of the Posse program by demonstrating strong leadership and academic potential. Posse scholars begin the program in their junior year of high school and receive intensive leadership training and support to prepare for college.

Scholars then attend college in “Posses” of 10 students at Ivy League and small liberal arts colleges nation-wide. Faculty and staff mentor students once they matriculate; Posse Scholars also mentor their peers, ensuring that incoming freshman have the support they need to thrive. Posse members have high rates academic success, engagement on campus, and graduation.

PossePlus Retreats happen all over the country for each college that has a Posse program. These retreats are a chance for Posse Scholars to see the staff from their hometown and to teach others about the Posse program. Faculty and staff on each campus are also invited to attend. The retreat helps to grow the number of mentors and allies for Posse students and reinforce the importance of the program to the campus by adding to the number of people on campus who know about Posse. The retreat is a dynamic learning and sharing experience around a particular theme.

PHENND Next Steps coordinator and Posse Alum, Daisy Villa, assured me that it would be a life-changing event. She was most definitely correct. Although it would be impossible to describe the full scope of the weekend, I will attempt to note the highlights.

The retreat was led by Posse Miami staff. Each activity was designed to engage participants and move them deeper in to the theme of Crime and Punishment and to spark learning in different ways. Each retreat was carefully planned and researched a year in advance. Throughout the weekend, Posse staff facilitated small group dialogues called “Discussion Labs,” There were also whole group activities such as a Gallery Walk of photos designed to spark opinions, games and guided reflections that tackled different aspects of the theme.

I was particularly enthralled with the independent research conducted by Posse staff regarding the theme of Crime and Punishment. Posse staff filmed and interviewed community members, formerly incarcerated people, youth who have been part of the criminal justice system and advocacy groups. They then created a tailored video for Posse Retreat participants about the topic. Not only did the interviewees highlight various aspects of the topic they also spoke directly to PossePlus retreat participants, encouraging them to engage with this topic fully.

Throughout the weekend, there were a variety of perspectives presented. Participants were open to having honest conversations and were eager to listen to each other’s stories. I left this retreat feeling truly hopeful. The students who attended are in the midst of changing the world and I have no doubt that they will help to enact true justice in our society. This retreat will continue to be a source of hope and motivation for me, and I’m sure for the other faculty and staff who participated.

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