Two Anne Arundel County students will receive full college scholarships as part of a national program intended to help college students form friendships to combat homesickness and other problems they might encounter while away at school.
As scholars of the New York-based Posse Foundation, Emily Haley, 18, of Broadneck High School will attend Bucknell University in Pennsylvania next fall, and Jaysen Wright, 17, of Annapolis High School will go to Iowa's Grinnell College.
Each year, the foundation sends teams of students from Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles and other cities to colleges and universities across the country. Group members, initially strangers, attend weekly training sessions to build relationships to help them adjust to the challenges of college.
Founder Deborah Bial has said Posse is not specifically aimed at students with financial need or minority groups underrepresented on many college campuses. Instead, the foundation identifies for the award students with demonstrated leadership ability.
As of this year, more than 1,000 students will have been selected to attend more than 20 colleges and universities - mostly small liberal-arts institutions - that donate the scholarships.
Both Anne Arundel students said they were grateful for the chance to attend college in a "homey" environment.
Wright, who lives in Annapolis with his mother, said he had limited his college search to schools in Maryland, Washington, D.C., and Virginia.
"I was considering colleges I could take out loans and pay for," he said.
The student government vice president and varsity tennis player said he has acted in seven of his high school's theater productions and hopes to become an English teacher. But although Wright knew about Grinnell's theater programs, "I didn't think I had the means to go there," he said.
As a Posse scholar, "I'm in love with this college, and I'm in love with this program," Wright said.
"He's obviously very bright and articulate," said his guidance counselor, Laura Goodhand, who helped nominate him.
Haley, of Cape St. Claire, serves as student government president at Broadneck as well as president of several community-service organizations. She said she had intended to apply to Bucknell before she was nominated for the program. "I really like to get connected with people and to network," she said.
Haley said neither of her parents had attended college, but they promised to support her as she applied to the Posse program and to schools directly. She said she is considering a career in law, in the FBI or as a criminal justice attorney.
"We value the kind of attitude that Emily brings to school and her studies," said Broadneck Principal Cindy Hudson, who described Haley as a "role model."
Officials at the Posse Foundation say they will continue outreach efforts to ensure more people become familiar with their mission.
The foundation's Washington office, which opened this year, received more than 600 nominations from schools and community-based organizations, but only about two-thirds of those students submitted applications, said Washington director Marcy Mistrett.
Through three different interview stages, the foundation pared the local list down to a team of 10 each for Grinnell and Bucknell.