3 Seniors Awarded Posse Scholarships


Photo by Emily Nagy

Seniors Stefan Piedrasanta, Emily Weerasinghe and Christian Melgar (left to right) have all been named Posse Scholars and will receive full tuition scholarships to either Sewanee University of the South or Bucknell University. All three have been involved in various extracurriculars throughout high school.

Elenna Mach and Zoe Moser

“‘I think I lost it, I think I blacked out, but I remember I was shaking and crying,’” senior Emily Weerasinghe said when reacting to the news of being named one of three RHS Posse Scholars.

Seniors Christian Melgar, Stefan Piedrasanta and Weerasinghe have all been named Posse Scholars and will receive full tuition scholarships to either Sewanee University of the South or Bucknell University. The Posse Foundation identifies, recruits and trains individuals with extraordinary leadership potential, according to their website.  

All three have been active leaders and diligent members of the student body during their time at RHS and have made lasting contributions to the community through clubs and projects. Piedrasanta and Weerasinghe are currently enrolled in the International Baccalaureate (IB)  diploma program, and Melgar is enrolled in the IB Certificate program.

Piedrasanta has been an active leader in various extracurriculars and president of the Hispanic Leadership Club as well as having participated in extracurriculars such as LearnServe, an international organization that teaches young people how to create change. Weerasinghe has been a part of the Student Government Association (SGA) since middle school and currently serves as vice president of the Class of 2019 SGA as well as president of the Key Club. Melgar recently recited the Gettysburg Address at the Library of Congress Nov. 19 and is being interviewed by Bethesda Magazine after being named one of its 2018 Extraordinary Teen Award recipients in Montgomery County.

They’ve gone through a lot to get to this spot.                                     -College & Career Coordinator Janet Harris

The process of becoming a Posse Scholar is long and tedious since students must first be nominated by a posse-approved nominator. College & Career Information Coordinator Janet Harris nominated 10 seniors based on their academics, leadership, extracurricular activities and their character. The candidates are then interviewed and observed with other candidates as well as college admissions counselors. Students who make it as finalists return for a final individual interview which determines whether they will earn the scholarship.

“Every school knows what they are looking for from the student; everybody knows what character they’re looking for to bring to their schools and they’re looking for that leadership ability from students,” Harris said. “When you finally get to the ceremony at the end and the students are able to talk, you can hear the commonality between them and you can see it because they’ve gone through a lot to get to this spot.”

All three of the seniors have put in tremendous work both inside and outside of school, bettering the community of RHS in various ways, and all felt a sense of relief when they learned they had been chosen.

“I cried when I got the phone call and then I stopped because I had to stop to talk to them and calm down,” Melgar said. “I went upstairs to my mom and when I saw my mom I just started breaking out, crying, because I don’t see my mom that often, she basically works seven days a week twelve hour shifts. I felt like a connection, just seeing her hard work and my parent’s hard work, the work they put into my education, it was just like, ‘wow, like I won’, it was such a relief, a huge weight was just lifted.”

Even though Piedrasanta and Weerasinghe have older siblings who are also Posse Scholars, they said they still felt a fresh excitement when they received the award.

“I remember the day after putting on my Sewanee hoodie and I was like, ‘wow, this is my college,’ which was pretty cool,” Piedrasanta said.

As Posse Scholars, they will attend weekly meetings starting Jan. 9 to better understand what will be expected of them once in college. In college, they will also be a part of their “Posse” and have weekly meetings and check-ups concerning campus activity and grades.

In college, Melgar plans on majoring in either education or biomedical engineering. Piedrasanta hopes to double major in environmental and global studies, and Weerasinghe anticipates majoring in nursing or political science.

All three have ideas on how to implement change in their new communities next year as young leaders and Posse Scholars.

 “I’m definitely going into Student Government,” Weerasinghe said. “Once I found out that Sewanee just recently had their first student of color as their student body president, that just made me want to go to Sewanee so badly and be the first female [president], because I talked to them and they haven’t had that so I’m definitely going in, and that’s going to be my plan.”

Although RHS has had multiple students receive the Posse Scholarship, this year marks the first time three seniors were selected. All three students will continue to build on this achievement as they finish their senior year.

“[The Posse Scholarship] is a great opportunity because now, these students don’t have to worry about the financial piece,” Harris said. “All they have to do now is concentrate on the academics and be able to graduate and be able to reach back and help someone else.”