Christopher Valles

Christopher Valles

In the summer of 2020, Br. Rice High School Director of Counseling Pat Creed looked over a laundry list of scholarships for which Crusader students would be eligible, a tedious but rewarding task that he and the other counselors perform without fail every year.

Eventually, he came across the Posse Foundation Scholarship.

This nonprofit organization seeks out and recruits high school leaders who “might be missed by traditional admissions criteria but who can excel at selective colleges and universities.”

Matching the criteria to a list of qualified students, Creed noticed one name that stood out: senior Christopher Valles.

“When I found out that Mr. Creed had nominated me in mid-July, I was quite surprised that he had chosen me over many other individuals,” Valles said. “Once nominated, I poured my heart and soul into the interview process, which occurred from August to December.”

That heart and soul has paid off.

Earlier this year, Valles found out he was the recipient of the Posse Scholarship, and beginning in the fall, he will attend Oberlin College and Conservatory in Oberlin, Ohio, on a four-year, full-tuition-paid scholarship.

According to its website, the Posse Foundation is “rooted in the belief that a small, diverse group of talented students—a Posse—carefully selected and trained, can serve as a catalyst for individual and community development.”

Drawing from 10 U.S. metropolitan areas, the Posse Foundation matches diverse groups of students with its over 50 partner colleges and universities. To date, partner colleges have awarded more than $1.6 billion in scholarship awards.

Those considered for a scholarship must be nominated by a teacher or counselor and must demonstrate strong academic skills and leadership potential.

“Though the application process was straightforward, the scholarship selection procedure was lengthy and challenging,” Valles said. “I attended three separate interviews, which totaled about seven hours. Additionally, my entire student portfolio, which consisted of grades and other aspects of my school life, was thoroughly evaluated by a board of judges. My writing skills were also challenged in a series of essays.”

Valles credited Br. Rice for helping him prepare.

“Br. Rice provided me with a plethora of experiences, academically and socially,” he said, “ones that have aided me in becoming a better student and human being.”

When asked how he found out he’d won, Valles relayed the heart-warming story.

“After my third-round interview, which ended at 6 p.m., I received a call three hours later. My Posse trainer told me that the Oberlin College admissions team would like to ask me a few more questions and that I would need to join their meeting. I was surprised to see the vice president of admissions when I joined the meeting and that he knew my name.

“He asked me, ‘Chris, why do you think you would be a good fit at Oberlin College?’ I responded sincerely and confidently. ‘I believe I would thrive in the small-college setting of Oberlin College. I will find success there.’ I will never forget what he said next. ‘We agree with you. Welcome to the Oberlin Family.’

“I jumped for joy and ran to my mother downstairs. I wrapped my arms around her as we screamed in jubilation. The Posse Scholarship is more than just money to me and my family; it is the beginning of a new chapter in our lives, a new chapter in a story full of ups and downs, a story of triumph and hope, a chapter of opportunity, an opportunity to do good and create change.”

Like any trying endeavor, the scholarship process provided Valles a chance to learn more about himself.

“I came to understand the power of words, both written and spoken,” he said. “I want to use my writing skills in the realm of public service. I hope that this will lead me down a path through the legal field, an area that I may use my skills to help the most people possible.

“If I better the life of just one person, I will have lived a full life.”