1st-Time Award Winner: ESJH senior earns prestigious scholarship

Published 12:13 am Saturday, January 21, 2017

RESERVE — Elijah Tumblin probably could have skipped school that day in May, but he might have missed the opportunity of a lifetime.

It was the last day of classes for the 2015-16 school year. All of the seniors were gone and, not surprisingly, many of the juniors had skipped classes.

Tumblin did not, so he was among a group of juniors herded into the school’s media center for a presentation by the Posse Foundation, a national scholarship program brought to St. John the Baptist Parish’s school district for the first time.

Principal Tabari Simon, left, said Elijah Tumblin made an immediate impression with scholarship officials.

Principal Tabari Simon, left, said Elijah Tumblin made an immediate impression with scholarship officials.

In just that first informational session, Tumblin stood out, according to East St. John High principal Tabari Simon.

“By the end of that interview, the young lady from the Posse Foundation was asking, ‘what’s his name?’” Simon said. “He asked the right questions — how rigorous the process would be and how tough the competition would be. He had the right personality they were looking for. He stood out to her at our school and apparently kept standing out as he went along.”

After a rather rigorous process, which included a team-building seminar and a grueling interview, Tumblin found out in December that he had been awarded a four-year full tuition scholarship to attend Case Western Reserve University in Ohio.

“That was one heck of a Christmas present,” Simon said. “You don’t have to pay tuition for four years.”

Tumblin, the son of Tina Tumblin and Jerome Fallen of LaPlace, said he will major in chemistry at the school, which is noted for its chemistry department.

“I’m very excited,” he said. “I either want to work in one of the chemical plants or be a chemist.”

The Posse Foundation partners with colleges and universities to award merit-based scholarships to groups of students under the belief that, with a built-in support system, they have a greater chance of achieving success.

This was the first year St. John Parish participated.

“We sent in six applicants our first year,” Simon said. “Just to keep it in perspective, there have been districts that have sent in 10 or 20 students year after year after year and have never had a student picked. For us to send in six and got to the point where he made it on our first attempt, just really says a lot.”

Tumblin is one of 10 students to receive scholarships to Case Western.

“I have nine other people I’m supposed to go to college with,” Tumblin said. “You go as a group. We’re supposed to get to know each other and bond. From what I heard, when you’re a freshman you like to party and everything and you can lose all your responsibilities. So if you have people that motivate you, you’re more likely to complete your studies.”

In effect, Tumblin would have a posse, said Simon.

“The concept is, if you have friends or a support system around you, you are more likely to succeed at school,” Simon said.

Tumblin said it was a tough process to go through, with three interviews.

The first was a Dynamic Assessment.

“We had to do a bunch of challenges, and it shows your leadership and potential,” he explained.

“One of them, we had to build a free-standing structure out of straws. We didn’t win the challenge.”

In another challenge, Tumblin’s group had to create a public service announcement. He also had to write an essay and be interviewed by a panel.

“I wasn’t really too confident about the interview,” he said. “Two weeks later, they said I made it to the next round.”

The day of the final interview, Tumblin found out he had been selected to receive the scholarship — he just couldn’t tell anyone.

“They called me and said, ‘Elijah, we’re not supposed to be telling you this, but you got the scholarship,’” Tumblin said. “I couldn’t believe it. I thought they were lying to me.”

Simon found out days later, over the Christmas holidays, on a day Tumblin was at school anyway.

“We were actually still at school, even though we were out for Christmas break,” Simon explained. “Elijah was here doing service volunteer hours, even at that time, helping out with the St. John Parish teachers’ retirement gala. They asked for student volunteers and he was one of them.

“In a word, he’s just exemplary. Any teacher around here will tell you these are the students that don’t get talked about enough, the ones that are self motivated, the ones that have that intrinsic motivation, those that have life goals and have it figured out, the ones that really just make you proud every time you see them, that are on the right path and always doing the right thing.”