By Ginger DeShaney
Thomas White is the epitome of South Boston: hard-working, civic-minded, community-driven, and determined to make a difference. And he will be bringing those Southie qualities to Bucknell University next fall as a Posse Scholar.
The son of Anna and Langdon White, Thomas was officially announced as a Posse Scholar last week when he met the nine other students in his Posse.
“Southie has a strong community,” said Thomas, a senior at Boston Latin School. “I was scared of losing that sense of community when I went to school.”
But the students in his Posse at Bucknell will have Thomas’ back and he’ll have theirs.
The prestigious leadership scholarship covers tuition for all four years at Bucknell, a highly regarded private liberal arts school in Lewisburg, PA.
The Posse Scholars will meet once a week for the first two years of college, providing the sense of community and support Thomas has grown up with in Southie. “You have a group of people who, if you’re struggling … understands it; like someone from home. Especially coming from here, it’s a community.”
Thomas is thrilled with his Posse and the built-in support system. “It’s a really good group; they were hand-chosen,” he said, noting all the scholars have different interests and different backgrounds but “they see the world the same way as you … it’s really cool.”
According to the Posse Foundation, the Posse model 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. As the United States becomes increasingly multicultural, Posse believes that the leaders of the 21st century should reflect the country’s rich demographic mix. The key to a promising future for our nation rests on the ability of strong leaders from diverse backgrounds to develop consensus solutions to complex social problems. Posse’s primary aim is to train these leaders of tomorrow.
At the end of his junior year, Thomas saw information about the Posse Scholarship. In June 2020, he applied to be considered for the scholarship at BLS’s College Resource Center. The head of the center reached out to teachers for nominations. Thomas doesn’t know who nominated him.
Once he was nominated, he started the process, which included two rounds of lengthy interviews (group and one-on-one). When he found out in Round 3 that he was a finalist to attend Bucknell, he had to decide if he wanted to accept that school and then apply for early decision. In the fourth round, he had another group interview with the 50 finalists in which the school looked to see how the finalists worked with each other.
Out of those 50, the final 10 Scholars were selected. “It’s a group of people handpicked for you,” Thomas said.
Each Scholar possesses exceptional leadership qualities. Part of the process included the applicants talking about being a leader and what it means to them. “I wasn’t thinking of how it would look on a college application,” Thomas said about all his activities. “I just like doing them.”
Thomas’ South Boston resume is impressive.
- He played Southie soccer.
- He worked with a State Senator in the Summer Leadership Intern Program through the South Boston Neighborhood House.
- He is a member of the Mayor’s Youth Council representing Southie.
- He works as Junior Staff for the Edgerley Family South Boston Boys & Girls Club.
- He’s been a track coach for Youth Enrichment Services since eighth grade after having been a member starting at age 10.
- He’s coached CYO basketball with the Gate of Heaven program since seventh grade after having participated as a player.
- He participated in Regan’s Motivated Fitness exercise programs.
- He attended the Paraclete program for many years.
Through his years at BLS, Thomas has learned to budget his time. When not serving the community or studying, Thomas is running. His senior cross-country season was cut short because of COVID-19, but his hard work, potential, and stellar stats landed him a spot on the Bucknell track team.
Thomas is interested in politics, history, environmental science, and international relations, and he’ll see where that takes him at Bucknell.
He credits Southie and its sense of community with getting him to this point. The friends he’s made here will be friends for life, he said.
He has built strong bonds with South Boston youth from his work with the basketball, the Boys & Girls Club, and track programs. “They look up to you. They’ll tell you things. They see you as a helper,” he said.
When he walks down the street, parents of kids he’s coached or mentored will tell him, “My son talks about you all the time,” Thomas said. “It’s so rewarding.”
When he was younger and he and his mom would walk somewhere that should have taken five minutes, it would take 30 minutes because his mom knew so many people. “Now I’m the one stopping her to talk,” Thomas said. “I know so many people.”
He credits the YES track program for his success at BLS (he is a captain) and his spot on the Bucknell team. And while he wasn’t the best basketball player in Gatey history, he did make a ton of friends and gain mentors in the coaches. “That’s who personifies the neighborhood,” he said.
At the Paraclete, he met kids of many different backgrounds. By attending Southie schools St. Peter’s, the Condon, and Up Academy, he knows so many kids and continues to have strong ties to them.
“I’ve met so many people with so many different backgrounds,” he said. “It changed the way I look at the world.”
He will take that Southie worldview to Lewisburg, where he is sure to make a difference in his new community.