Riding to the Rescue

How the Posse Foundation helps students get into and thrive in college

By Nicole Gildea

Just relax. Yuying Guo tells herself as she steps into the interview room. Her stomach is full of nerves but she takes a deep breath and puts a smile on her face. This is not the time to be nervous. She has to give it everything. Her eyes scan the room and she notices about 24 other students. They all made it to the final interview but only 10 will be selected. Less than half of them. Guo hopes more than anything she will be selected because then she will win the ultimate prize—a full-tuition scholarship to college.

The interview lasts nearly four hours. It is a group interview where candidates answer questions about themselves and participate in interactive workshops. The selection committee already received her grades and test scores. Now they are evaluating her on her ability to communicate well, to work in a team, and to demonstrate leadership.

Guo leaves the building by the end of the night and steps into the December air. She feels a sense of relief knowing that she finished the third and final interview. She feels proud of herself for making it this far. Now all she has to do is wait for the decisions to be made.

Tiny flakes of snow flutter onto her jacket as she walks down the streets of Boston. She ducks into the subway and rides the train back home. She arrives home around 9:00 p.m. and settles into her bedroom. It is a school night. Homework will be due tomorrow. However, Guo is too distracted by the recent interview to do any homework.

Suddenly the phone rings. That’s weird. She thinks. Why is someone calling me this late? She answers the phone. A moment later a huge smile spreads across her face. It is the Posse Foundation on the other line. They are calling to tell her that she has been admitted into Bryn Mawr College on a full-ride.


Posse students at in Bryn Mawr lab

Founded in 1989, the Posse Foundation is a national organization devoted to college access and youth development. Each year it identifies public high school students from the same urban communities who have demonstrated strong academic and leadership talent. The founder of the organization is Deborah Bial, an alumna of the Harvard Graduate School of Education. According to the organization’s website, Bial got the idea to create the foundation when she heard a student say, “I never would have dropped out of college if I had my posse with me.”

The Posse Foundation places students in diverse groups of 10, known as Posses, in prestigious colleges and universities throughout the United States. The idea is that by being in a Posse, students will receive the support of the fellow students their Posse to help them graduate. Continue reading

Handmade To Online

How Etsy gives crafts people access to an online market

By Jian White                                                                                                          

The holidays are on the horizon. People across the country are searching for the perfect gifts to surprise their family and friends with, as well as treating themselves to something special. However, they aren’t shopping only in the traditional department stores anymore.

They’ve taken to the internet to do a lot of their holiday shopping. However, it’s not only the big box stores seeing all this extra influx of customers. Small business owners are seeing it too, even shops that don’t have their own website.

This age of mass produced items has shifted some people’s values. More people want to connect to the people making their items. “I really feel good about buying things that have a story behind them,” said Sophie Mongoven, a senior at Bryn Mawr College. “I also like buying things for myself and other people that you know everyone else won’t have.”


“It feels really good when you buy jewelry or accessories and someone asks you where you got it and you can say that it was one of only five made and add in the interesting background story of the owner.” said Mongoven. “That’s why I really like shopping on Etsy compared to bigger stores.”

Shopping isn’t only getting personal. It’s getting handmade.

Mongoven isn’t the only one who enjoys buying unique, handcrafted items with a story. Statista.com reported that Etsy annual merchandise sales had risen to 2.39 billion dollars in 2015 from 895 million in 2012. Etsy is currently the home to 1.7 million active sellers with upwards of 27.1 million active buyers across the world, since opening its online doors in 2005.

Etsy found its niche within the handcrafted world of online goods. It appeals to artisans, thrifters, and crafters alike to showcase their talents and finds with the rest of the world. People are selling every from their vintage clothing to art prints. “It’s really easy to get art prints that aren’t too expensive and not everyone else has on Etsy.” said Mongoven.

The site has built a community around not just for buyers like Mongoven, but also for the crafters that are selling on Etsy itself. That’s what sets it apart from other retailers like Amazon and eBay. Sellers and buyers alike can come together to ask questions and share ideas on Etsy online forums boards. Continue reading

Emmet Binkowski’s Journey

The hurdles and hardships of being trans in America

By Theresa Diffendal

            Imagine if you needed a letter from your therapist signing off on your mental stability before you could receive a prescription.

For about one in every 300 people in United States, that scenario is a reality.

Trans individuals are those who do not identify with the gender they were assigned at birth. Often times trans individuals will take hormones, a process called Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT), or undergo surgery to help their bodies physically present as the gender with which they identify.

However, trans people often have to jump through a myriad of hoops before they can begin receiving these treatments, treatments which Mazzoni Center Senior Communications Manger Elisabeth Flynn said help to counteract “things like depression, anxiety, rejection by family and society…[which] stem from the difficulty of being trans or gender nonconforming in a society where being different in any way can be hard.”

Emmet Binkowski, a 22-year-old senior at Bryn Mawr College, has been taking testosterone since October 2014. Binkowski goes to the Mazzoni Center to receive health care. The Mazzoni Center is non-profit health care center located in the heart of Philadelphia, the city of brotherly love. It is unique in that in specializes in healthcare for members of the LGBT+ community – lesbians, gays, bisexuals, trans, and other gender identity and sexual orientation minorities.

Emmet Binkowski & Friend

Emmet Binkowski & Friend

To be given a prescription for hormones, trans individuals often have to get cleared by a therapist before they can begin HRT or undergo gender reassignment surgery.

“You have to go and talk to a social worker basically,” Binkowski explained. “Some places just a regular endocrinologist will prescribe you hormones if you have a letter from a therapist that you’ve been seeing and talking to about your transition. There’s gatekeeping that goes on where you have to have this official letter.”

That’s one visit. “Then you also have to get bloodwork done to make sure there’s nothing physiological that would make it harmful for you to start hormones,” Binkowski said. For example, testosterone can make already high blood pressure worse.

“Then they show you how to do the injection. Then you can just do them yourself every week. They teach you to do it in the fat instead of the muscle because it hurts less,” he added. “Sometimes it feels like nothing at all, sometimes it stings, but it’s no big deal after you’ve done it every week for a year.”

But just getting to a health care center can be a struggle. The time period between coming out as trans and starting HRT was extended “because it was just difficult to get into the city and go all the way to Mazzoni and come back. It takes hours by the time you go there, do whatever you need to do, and come back. Continue reading

Finding a World in Music

Yue Yang strives to become a violinist

By Elisabeth Kamaka

Yue Yang was not planning on studying music when she first arrived at college in the U.S.  She was interested in biology and political science.

Now a senior majoring in music at Bryn Mawr College, Yang, a 21-year-old violinist, has risen in the ranks, holding the coveted title of Concertmaster of the Haverford-Bryn Mawr Bi-Co Orchestra.

As concertmaster, Yang is the lead violin and the assistant conductor of the orchestra. This unexpected turn in Yang’s education and career path sum up her belief that we each have our calling, something we were meant to do in our lives.

Born in 1994 in the southeastern coastal province of Zhejiang, China, Yang started the violin at age four because her family “wanted me to start music.”

Her father had a colleague who played the violin and offered to give Yang and her brother

Yue Yang

Yue Yang

lessons. After Yang won a prize in a small competition, her parents decided to continue her violin lessons with another teacher. However, Yang “only played [the violin] for fun” even as other students around her were beginning to take their musical training very seriously.

Yang’s early musical influence began at home. Her family loved music. When she thinks back to her childhood, she recall a time when there wasn’t music in her life. Even before she started playing the violin, Yang’s father would play pop tunes on the family piano for Yang and her brother.

Yang’s brother later quit the violin to play the piano, influenced by the joy that the piano had brought to the family.

Other family influences kept Yang close to music. Her uncle is a music professor at Shanghai University. There is great pride that comes from the accomplishments of family members and Yang said her uncle “influenced me even though we were not close.”

High school brought many changes. Yang was enrolled in a boarding school in Ningbo, also located in the province of Zhejiang and would only go home about once a month. Although this initial separation from her family during her teen years was difficult, Yang said that it helped her immensely when moved to the U.S. to attend college.

While attending Ningbo Xiaoshi High School, Yang joined the orchestra, which was “the only high school with an orchestra in [her] province.” Yang continued to pay the violin for fun, never imagining that one-day it would be her career.

Go to Bryn Mawr

When she began to look into colleges, a friend from high school recommended that she apply to Bryn Mawr College in the US.  Yang chose Bryn Mawr because she liked the location and its proximity to Philadelphia, as well as its rich and unique heritage. Of course, she adds: “financial aid was a major factor.”

Continue reading

A is for Asexual

Asexuals search for a place in gay culture

By Theresa Diffendal

The “A” in the acronym LGBTQIA+ that is used as an umbrella term for the queer community as a whole is thought by many to stand for allies. In fact, it represents a group with growing visibility: the asexual community.

Asexuality, defined as a lack of sexual attraction to other people, in conjunction with aromanticism, which a lack of romantic attraction to other people, exist on the aromantic/asexual, or aro/ace, spectrum.

The spectrum serves to show the degree to which people feel sexual or romantic attraction, with allosexual — those who experience sexual attraction on a regular basis, — at the opposite end of asexuality. Those who fall in between allo- and asexual on the spectrum often refer to themselves as “demi” or “gray” sexual or romantic.

Asexual group at 2011 San Francisco parade

Asexual group at 2011 San Francisco parade

However even as the queer community seeks to be all-inclusive and establish “safe spaces,” or places those with marginalized gender or sexual orientations can feel included, a rift has formed over the issue of hyper-sexuality.

Many queer-exclusive spaces have a reputation of being hyper-sexualized, such as Pride Parades, bathhouses, and gay bars. Many of these scenes also exclude members of the very community they are supposed to serve because they are only accessible to those over 21.

The increasing visibility of asexuality has many queer groups trying to find ways to adapt to accommodate those who do not engage in or are made uncomfortable by sexual activity.

The origination of the term asexuality as it refers to sexual orientation can be attributed to Michael Storms who, in 1979, put forth a model of sexuality similar to the aro/ace spectrum discussed above. The Kinsey Scale – a scale which rates sexual orientation from strictly heterosexual to strictly homosexual – also added the category “X” in its Kinsey Reports as early as 1948 to represent those who reported little to no sexual attraction.

Role of social media

Despite the early originations however, AVEN (the Asexual Visibility and Education Network) which focuses on issues related to asexuality, states that the first group for asexuals did not appear until October of 2000 in the form of a Yahoo group called “Haven for the Human Amoeba.”

Asexuality — and marginalized orientations in general — have often found acceptance and communities on the internet. Tumblr has a number of blogs whose purpose is to provide information about or help people come to terms with asexuality, such as asexual research.

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