As a high school senior, I became a Posse Scholar—a moment I will never forget. Following the final round of interviews, I had returned home to the aroma of incense, burning ever so slowly. Its thin fog of smoke enveloped the framed photos and still statues of the gods, to whom it was offered. My mom had been praying. As most check-ins went, my mom asked, “kasto bho?” How was it? To which I replied, “ramrai bho.” Not bad. Self-doubt paired with a grim fear of high-optimism stunted my response. Instead, I freshened up, recited a short chant and got ready for dinner. My mom and I sat on the living room floor, as is the norm in our family, with our steaming plates of dal, bhat, tarkari—a Nepalese staple—placed in front of us. Then, the phone rang; it was the call. The Dean of Students from Trinity College welcomed me to attend Trinity as a Posse Scholar.
It’s was unthinkable, then, to envision the depth of influence that moment would come to have on my life.
I neither screamed in excitement, nor cried with joy. But, with the cheesiest of smiles, I said my thanks. Everything else was a blur. After the call, I sat on the living room sofa and smiled. My mom asked, “k bhane?” What did they say? “Paiyo!” I responded. I got it! A period of silence followed, broken only by the recurring laughter of the taped TV audience. In that moment, the tense baggage of fear and uncertainty I had carried for months, the same one that burdened my parents for decades, suddenly lost some of its weight. Congratulating me, my mom smiled. We returned to the living room floor, where the food had lost its steam. Neither of us finished our dinner that night.
Fast forward 5 years. I am reminiscing of that day from my desk at the Posse Foundation’s National Office in New York City. A sign above me reads: Sanjay Thapa, Newman’s Own Foundation Fellow. This title holds significance, it is the coming-together of two organizations and ideas that have molded me into the person I am today. I understand now that Posse went beyond lifting financial barriers to education; it empowered me to think bigger, and encouraged me to envision and work towards a better future. Similarly, Newman’s Own has equipped me with the network and opportunity to pursue my passions and build out my career path.
As a Newman’s Own Foundation Fellow, I have had the opportunity to contribute to Posse’s unwavering dedication to equity and empowerment. As a Posse alum—a product of the training and support provided by Posse—I do not take my role for granted. The impact of Posse’s mission on the lives of not only young and aspiring students, but also their families and communities cannot be understated. In a sense, Posse—by instilling the courage and audacity to dream, while also, providing the training and opportunity to achieve them—helps families skip a generation. As Posse staff, every day I work with, and learn from, the most dedicated, brilliant and diverse colleagues. Having my time at Posse distributed within three departments introduced me to multiple leadership styles, and career paths—all of which has greatly facilitated my learning. As a result, I have gained new interests and skills that will be critical to my future growth—both personal and professional. Though I started this Fellowship year in hopes of giving back to posse, my experience and time as Posse staff has given me more than I could ever hope to repay.
Similarly, Newman’s Own Foundation continues to foster, within me, a love for doing good. I also got to meet and befriend 16 brilliant young individuals. I am inspired by the brilliance, perseverance and versatility of my fellow, Fellows. I am honored to have been able to share this experience with them! Although our Fellowship year nears its end, I am excited and confident that the future holds great things for all of us. As @samdapper says, “we good.”
To everyone at the Posse Foundation and the Newman’s Own Foundation, thank you for investing in youth, and working tirelessly to unlock our potential. Thank you for helping me be myself.
By Sanjay Thapa – The Posse Foundation, New York, NY