“Harnessing Peer Power To Navigate College” A Sociological Analysis

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Harnessing Peer Power To Navigate College

SOC 101-1N1 Bethany Herold

Pikes Peak Community College

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The article “Harnessing Peer Power To Navigate College” was written by Caralee J. Adams on June 5th, 2014, and was published in Education Week. This article introduces a special organization known as The Posse Foundation, which “chooses diverse groups of high school seniors…who have strong leadership skills and academic potential but who may not have stellar test scores and could be overlooked in the traditional college-selection process” (Adams, 2014). This article makes use of several sociological theories and concepts, including Achieved Statuses, Symbolic Internationalism, and Mechanical Solidarity.

Brief Summary of Article

Shedding light on a nonprofit scholarship foundation that provides funding for students for reasons other than academics, Caralee Adams presents The Posse Foundation, a diverse peer support group birthed to aid high school students in approaching secondary education. This program stresses the importance of academic socialization, proper precollegiate training, and has a specialized support program called STEM for those pursuing Maths and Sciences. It currently targets students in major cities, such as Atlanta and Los Angeles, and “selected students are given full-tuition scholarships by one of fifty-one elite partner institutions” (Adams, 2014). The main concept driving the foundation is that students do better academically when placed in connection with other students, or peers, that have similar situations and goals. The author also delves into proven research showing the powerful influences of social motivation, peer groups, positive pressure. This program deems strong success in the first year critical, as author and professor Vincent Tinto reports that “of all students who leave college before getting a degree, nearly half do so before the start of the second year.” (Adams, 2014).

Achieved Statuses

This article perfectly illustrates a Posse member’s achieved status, which is a “position[s] that [is] earned, accomplished, or involve[s] at least some effort or activity on the individual’s part”

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(Henslin, 2012, p. 95). Attaining this status requires much effort on the student’s part, as he must voluntarily become actively involved in leadership and various school programs. A member of this group must also comply with the general guidelines of how to act, as Posse is a social structure that has its own rules and regulations. For example, it is expected that all members are socially involved with campus programs because “nearly eighty percent of [members] have either founded an organization or been the president of an existing organization on campus” (Adams, 2014). While still in high school, students are required to attending meetings with other Posse associates to thoroughly prepare them for college in the aspects of scheduling, studying, and diversity. Achieved statuses are not guaranteed, requiring Posse members to be actively involved to maintain favor, and in this case, funding.

Symbolic Interaction Theory

School scholarships are a common symbol in America, and they are typically associated with academic merit and minority groups. The Posse has worked hard to make their scholarship a symbol of leadership and tolerance. Focusing on relationships, symbolic internationalism is “a theoretical perspective in which society is viewed as composed of symbols that people use to establish meaning, develop their views of the world, and communicate with one another” (Henslin, 2012, p. 24). Posse itself is a symbolization of leadership, advancement, and cultural diversity. Members work hard to make a difference and up hold these foundational values, and are greatly concerned with the well-being of others. In the words of Jake J. Moreno-Coplon, a 2008 graduate of Middlebury College in Vermont, his posse was “made up of ‘superstars’ who weren’t just in college to make it as individuals but were committed to blazing a trail for others.” (Adams, 2014). Students also rely on each other to lift moral, and some find the relationships within the posse so impacting that they give it the new symbolic representation of family.

Mechanical Solidarity

Posse students develop a strong bond with each other as well as sense of like-mindedness. As

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eighteen year old Sydney R. Lewis illustrates, the relationships go beyond academics to encompass emotional support, and she felt that “whenever [I’m] homesick, [I] can go to the posse, and they can help [me] feel better.” (Adams, 2014). Members all share a common goals of leadership, academic development, and world betterment, and this causes them to live in harmony. This is a perfect example of mechanical solidarity, which is “the unity (a shared consciousness) that people feel as a result of performing the same or similar tasks” (Henslin, 2012, p. 101). These students begin to create relationships prior to graduating high school, and spend most of their time together in college through studying, campus groups, and extracurricular activities. This like-mindedness has yielded proven results as Posse scholars have a ninety percent graduation rate within four years, while non-Posse rates are closer to fifty-seven percent (Adams, 2014).


Posse shows that a diverse group of gifted students can, when properly educated and chosen, can influence change and development both during and after college. Recruiting these students has greatly impacted campuses by increasing graduation rates, creating interactive campus environments, and developing strong leaders for the future. Posse is growing in success and has inspired other scholarships and programs of the same nature. The organization’s founder, Deborah Bial, believes the strong connection between students what makes them succeed “It made a a lot of sense. If you could send a team, a posse, a group of kids together to college, they’d be more likely to back each other up and less likely to turn around and come home.” (Adams, 2014). By creating a new symbol and meaning for the word scholarship, and encouraging students to achieve their highest goals through the support of other with similar desires, Posse is making the future brighter by positively influencing young generations.

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Adams, Caralee J. “Harnessing Peer Power To Navigate College.” Education Week [serial online]. June 5, 2014:10-13. Available from: Academic Search Complete, Ipswich, MA. Accessed June 25, 2014. <https://web.a.ebscohost.com.libdb.ppcc.edu/ehost/detail?vid=3&sid=2c964d76-0c8c 4305-9ea2-ad8e770ce10f%40sessionmgr4001&hid=4101&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWhvc3Qt bGl2ZQ%3d%3d#db=a9h&AN=96336256>

Henslin, J. The Sociological Perspective. Introduction to Sociology. Saddle River: Pearson Education, 2012. Print.


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