Working alongside civil rights legend John Lewis

See all Posse Scholar stories

Tulane University Posse Scholar Younes Boulares grew up balancing a childhood in the United States with summers spent working on his grandmother’s vineyard in Algeria.

"That’s what really got me interested in politics and in policy," he says. "Civil institutions there are so different than here. My family was always very unique, spread out overseas, with different factors impacting their lives."

As a kid, Younes moved around as his father pursued undergraduate and advanced degrees in biochemistry and toxicology, taking them from Connecticut to Washington, D.C. and then to New Orleans in 2002. His father eventually earned his doctorate from Georgetown University.

As a high school student Younes had college in his sights, but didn’t want to be a financial burden to his parents.

"I hope to challenge and change policies and perspectives."

"I never wanted them to pay for college," he says. "My dad didn’t ask for anyone to pay for him to go to college, neither did my mom. I wanted to seek out things that would benefit my family rather than waiting for everything to come to me."

Younes took notice when one of his older friends won a Posse Scholarship.

"I decided I wanted to go for it," he remembers. Unlike many other Scholars across the country who go far from home, Younes wound up pursuing the idea of staying in New Orleans to attend Posse partner school Tulane University. "Thinking about my two little brothers," he recalls, "I thought if I could stay at Tulane and be in such a good program, it would be ideal to also be connected to home."

The Posse Scholarship has given Younes a unique viewpoint at school.

"I look at the immense pressure I see in others trying to pay off loans," he says. "I see what I gain without that."

He credits Posse with exposing him to students of many experiences and backgrounds, noting that people often naturally gravitate towards social groups that mirror themselves.

"In my family I always heard that if you work for what you want you can get it, the rags to riches idea," Younes says. "Through Posse, I see it is a lot more complicated than that. For some Scholars, I know a lot of their problems stem from issues they can’t control."

Younes is now a neuroscience and international relations double major in the Tulane School of Science and Engineering, considering a career in public service, with science as a continued side interest. Last year, a Jeff Ubben Posse Fellowship gave Younes the chance to work on Capitol Hill alongside his personal hero, Congressman John Lewis. While other interns in Lewis’s office did legislative research, the prestigious Ubben Fellowship gave Younes closer access to the venerable congressman and civil rights legend.

Younes Boulares with Civil Rights leader, Congressman Lewis.
Younes Boulares with Civil Rights leader Congressman John Lewis.

“He has this respect around him that I’ve never seen before,” Younes says. “But I could just sit with him. I asked him so many questions about everything specific I could think of, policy in Africa, Obama’s decisions. His responses were enlightening,” Younes says, reflecting that before that, recent American politics had left him feeling downtrodden. “The internship had a lot of humbling moments, but it gave me a drive to keep going.”

Younes has a vivid memory from elementary school, of a friend reacting to his dream of one day becoming president. The reply was a single dismissive phrase: “That’s a white man’s job.”

“Those words reverberate in my head,” Younes says. “Growing up a Muslim-American has given me a unique perspective on American society. I’ve found myself having to protect my background and my rights whether it be in a classroom or workplace. I hope to challenge and change policies and perspectives.”

Tulane Posse 4

Share your Posse Story

Feeling the #PosseLove? Doing something exciting that you want to shout from the rooftops? We want to hear about how Posse has affected your life and the world around you.