Summer 2017| Posse National Newsletter


Grinnell Alumnus Launches High School in LA

Erin Whalen always knew he wanted to leave Los Angeles and experience life away from home. When the opportunity to attend Grinnell College on a Posse Scholarship came, he leapt.

Erin credits “incredible support from the Posse team” with easing his transition in Iowa. “It was really a family network in addition to a scholarship—a network that was there to see you succeed.”

Erin majored in anthropology at Grinnell and, after graduating, joined Teach for America in Miami. But three years later, “I knew I wanted to go back to LA to do this work,” Erin says.

Now 26, Erin is the founding assistant principal at the budding Da Vinci RISE High School in Los Angeles, a program for homeless and foster youth. The project grew out of a desire to tackle the “incredible amount of neglect talented children experience when facing housing instability,” Erin says.

This past September, Erin and his RISE co-founder, Kari Croft, won $10 million to support their initiative through the Super School Project funded by Laurene Powell Jobs, the widow of Steve Jobs. RISE is one of 10 schools nationwide that will receive the $10 million prize over five years.

“I’m excited to produce students who will be able to go through the process I did with Posse,” says Erin. “To take young people who have been ignored and give them a chance to compete in college is the goal.”

Looking to the future, Erin can already envision RISE students thriving. “To have students feel supported, loved and valued as people—that’s our definition of success.” *

View other stories in the Posse National Quarterly