South Broward High School Adds Two More to Their Posse

SBHS seniors Luka Kelava and Michelle Baeza pose for a photo. The seniors were both awarded a Posse scholarship to attend prestigious universities.

Ayla Kayan and Ariela Brody

Follow-up questions. Nobody likes them. Not on a test. Not on a job interview. And, not on a police report.

So, when SBHS senior Michelle Baeza logged into a midnight zoom meeting to complete a series of follow-up questions for a prospective college scholarship, she was bowled over by the news they gave her. 

“I was just waiting [for news about the scholarship] and they told me to hop on the zoom call to have ‘follow-up questions’,” said Baeza. “They were asking questions and then the person told me ‘you got in’ and I was super happy.”

Baeza, who will be attending Franklin and Marshall College in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, is one of two SBHS students this year to receive Posse Scholarships, a highly selective scholarship that offers full-tuition grants to select small liberal arts colleges all across the country. The other Posse Scholarship winner is SBHS senior Luka Kelava. He will be attending Hamilton University in Clinton, New York, this fall. 

Upon receiving the scholarship, Kelava and Baeza were told to keep the news under wraps, which proved to be a struggle for Kelava.

“[It] was a hard secret to keep because I told everyone ‘My interview is on this date and I’ll find out by then,’” said Kelava. “And they’re like ‘How did it go?’ and ‘I’m like I don’t know yet’ knowing full well that I got this really awesome scholarship.”

Founded in 1989, the Posse Foundation aims to prepare students from geographically and racially diverse backgrounds for the future. In the foundation’s lifetime, they have awarded $1.8 billion in scholarships to scholars.

Unlike other scholarships that students apply for, teachers, faculty members, or parents, can nominate students that demonstrate academic potential. In Baeza’s case, Ms. Greene, SBHS BRACE Advisor nominated her for her good grades and for her participation in an extensive list of extracurricular activities.

“I am president of the Chinese Honor Society. I’ve been a member of HOSA for two years. Women of Tomorrow, also two years,” said Baeza. “I was a BRACE cadet, which was to promote college and career readiness. Also, a part of Plastic-Free Mermaids, Student Social Advocacy Club, and Social Studies National Honor Society.”

Earlier this year, Ms. Macedo nominated  Kelava for a Posse scholarship. 

When it was time to recommend students, I nominated Luka because he was the ideal leader to represent a great organization like Posse,” said Macedo. 

Kelava is ranked 25 in his class and is a member of a handful of clubs, as well, but he credits his success to his teachers at South Broward High School.

“Mr. Jimenez and my art teacher, Mr. Eldred Banks, both are really awesome people and really have gotten me prepared for the college mindset,” said Kelava.

Posse scholarships are awarded every year, with the process starting in a student’s junior year. First, they must be nominated and then complete a series of interviews, in which nominees are whittled down to 20 potential recipients per college. From that group, a handful of students are offered the tuition-only scholarship.

The average cost of tuition at these historic scholarship colleges can be anywhere from $30,000 to $40,000 a semester, making the total value of tuition scholarship over $80,000 a year. 

Baeza is planning on majoring in biology and minoring in business. Attending such a prestigious school may not have been possible if she hadn’t received this scholarship.

“I would have struggled more because I am a first-generation student, and it’s just difficult,” said Baeza.

Although the Posse Scholarship covers most of the tuition, it doesn’t cover room and board, which can cost up to $13,000 per year. That leaves the SBHS recipients scrambling to cover what could cost them more than $52,000 over the course of four years.  Kelava and Baeza are tackling this issue in different ways. 

While Baeza is applying for financial aid and other scholarships, Kelava is starting his own small business. 

“I am using these little cards that you can tap on your phone and they’ll give people our information,” said Kelava. “ It’s using NFC (near-field communication) technology and I’m offering printing services on these cards so you can design whatever you want on your own little customized card.” 

A Posse Scholarship is prestigious and the competition can be keen, but according to Kelava, something that can differentiate students from each other is their self-confidence. 

“Don’t doubt yourself,” said Kelava. “Just be confident enough to put yourself out there and whatever happens, go for it.”