For most Revere High School (RHS) students, the college application and student loan process is at full throttle this month, and for it, a good many students and their parents are pulling their hair out.
Not so for RHS Senior Kristina Aiello, whose hair is completely intact, and who is heading to the private Hamilton College (of New York) next fall with a full scholarship courtesy of an innovative program that has found a good partner in the Revere schools.
Aiello found out last month that she had won the Posse Scholarship after a very competitive process that she had been participating in for the past nine months.
“I had my final interview in mid-December and I had heard that if you don’t get called back that day, then you didn’t get it,” said Aiello. “I came home from work and saw they had called me and I was so excited. They told me I had won and I just balled my eyes out. My Dad cried also when he heard.
“It’s funny, because I was really hesitant at first and wasn’t sure if I wanted to go for the scholarship because they want you to go to schools that are all far away,” she continued. “I didn’t know how I felt about leaving because I am so family-oriented. I almost didn’t go to my interview, but my Dad convinced me that I should and even gave me an incentive; that I would get new car if I actually got the scholarship.”
The scholarship comes from the Posse Scholar Foundation in Boston and Aiello is by no means the first RHS student to leave the city courtesy of the foundation. In fact, over the last four years, there have been more than a half-dozen Revere students picked by the foundation’s Boston franchise, and many more than have made it to the final rounds of interviews – something that, despite losing out, still helps in securing generous college scholarships and financial aid packages.
Posse has numerous franchises across the country, including offices in Atlanta and California, and it centers on the idea of helping young people who are in disadvantaged situations or might have a hard time financing college costs. By paying the tuition and providing an intensive college preparation and support program, Posse seeks to help urban kids be successful at private, liberal arts schools.
In Boston, Posse Scholars have the choice of six schools, including the likes of Hamilton, Bucknell and Union Colleges. Every year, the foundation awards 10 scholarships to each of the six schools for a total of 60 Posse Scholars per year.
Naturally, such a generous program features very intense competition among many students, but it’s a competition that Revere students have prevailed in many times recently.
“They like special students and our kids here are very special,” said Maureen Lenihan, RHS Director of Guidance. “They like that Revere students are excited about Posse. It’s an excellent opportunity and it’s just wonderful our kids can have the opportunity to be in such an excellent organization. These are all kids that might not otherwise get to go to college. RHS is sometimes undervalued and underestimated in what we do.”
Four years ago, Faton Begolli was the first RHS student taken by Posse, and he is now a senior at Hamilton. Since then, some six or seven other students have been awarded the scholarship and scores of students have advanced in the interview process.
Guidance Counselor Vincent O’Connor, who has helped Aiello through the process, said it is notable the number of kids from Revere who have been awarded such generous scholarships from Posse.
“We’re fortunate that the previous students they have picked from Revere have been very successful in the program and they speak well for our school,” he said. “Kristina and the others in the Posse program end up being great PR for us. It is amazing the amount of kids who have gone through RHS and received the scholarship or advanced to the interview process.”
Aiello – who works at the Danvers movie theatre – is a top student in her class and hopes to become a forensic psychiatrist – though she loves English and literature as well.
“I do love English, but I also have to be realistic because I need to provide for myself,” she said.
She moved to Revere from Peabody when she was 9 years old, and attended the Lincoln School, the Beachmont Middle School/Rumney Marsh Academy and RHS.
She said things have been tough for her over the years as she has been raised by a single father – Scott Aiello. A series of difficult family situations with her mother led to life being a challenge for her throughout her middle school and high school years.
However, she said she remains close to her mother, Amy Mangiafico, and her grandmother, Brenda Mangiafico, and has persevered by being organized and putting her full effort into school and work.
She said that winning the scholarship was a major relief for her and her father, and it has helped her to make that leap from being a child to being a young adult.
“It was definitely a load off my Dad’s back because he’s a single parent and my mom doesn’t make a lot of money,” she said. “It’s been stressful for us thinking about college. When I found out I was getting all of this money for college, it definitely improved our relationship…I appreciate all he’s done for me though I might not show it all the time. This was my chance to do something to help him and I showed him I could do it.”
For the next several months, Aiello will be going back and forth to Boston to participate in the Posse college readiness program and bonding with the other nine students who will be going to Hamilton with her. The intense program will bring the students together and get them ready to head off for New York in the fall.
“I am hesitant to leave my family and Revere, but I know I’m just a phone call away and my Dad said I can Skype on the computer every night with him and my cat,” she said.