UNCSA receives $2.28M gift from William R. Kenan, Jr. Charitable Trust to support Posse Arts Scholarships

UNCSA has received a pledge of $2.28 million in support from the Chapel Hill-based William R. Kenan, Jr. Charitable Trust. The funds will support a massive expansion of the UNCSA Posse Arts Program, an initiative of The Posse Foundation conceived in collaboration with the Miranda Family Fund.

UNCSA is one of three partner institutions in the Posse Arts Program, founded in 2021, which is an expansion of the Posse Scholars program that helps recruit, train and support talented students who might be missed through traditional avenues. Many Posse Scholars are often the first in their families to attend college or come from historically underrepresented communities. These students arrive in a cohort of peers — an “Arts Posse” — and receive full-tuition scholarships from partner institutions, on-campus mentoring, and other support services. UNCSA welcomed its first cohort of Arts Posse Scholars in 2022: six students studying in the schools of Drama, Filmmaking and Music. The 2023 Posse has been selected and adds a student attending the School of Design & Production as well as students in Drama, Filmmaking and Music (see below).

“The Posse Arts Program brings so much to our university,” said Chancellor Brian Cole. “I have enjoyed meeting members of the first Arts Posse Scholars cohort and look forward to seeing what these gifted emerging artists will accomplish on our campus in the years to come, and in their careers. We are deeply grateful to the Kenan Charitable Trust for giving this program the opportunity to grow and flourish.”

To date, financial support for the Posse Arts Program at UNCSA has come from The Posse Foundation and local donors within North Carolina. The commitment from the Kenan Charitable Trust will, in conjunction with these existing funds, fully support the current Arts Posse cohort, as well as the next three program cohorts of up to 10 students per year, growing the number of funded participants to as many as 36 by the 2025-26 academic year. Support for these students will include full tuition, housing, meal plans, fees, on-campus mentors, and other associated costs of attendance. During this period of full funding, UNCSA will seek permanently endowed funding to continue the program in perpetuity.

The Kenan Charitable Trust has long been a champion of UNCSA. The organization established the Kenan Excellence Scholarship at UNCSA in 2005 and endowed the scholarship with gifts of $6 million in 2011 and an additional $5 million in 2019. The Trust’s new commitment to the Posse Arts Program further solidifies the Kenan Trust’s legacy as one of the largest scholarship donors in university history.

“The William R. Kenan, Jr. Charitable Trust is honored to be a part of the artistic training for the next generation of artists,” said Dr. Nancy J. Cable, the Trust’s executive director. “The Posse Arts Program represents a transformative new resource for recruiting, nurturing and educating artists from all over the country, and we know that they will enhance the artistic and cultural fabric of our society.”

Full-tuition scholarships are a key component of UNCSA Forward, the university’s five-year strategic plan. In addition to the expansion of the Posse Arts Program, efforts are underway to expand and enhance scholarship opportunities in all five of the university’s arts schools: the schools of Dance, Design & Production, Drama, Filmmaking, and Music.

The William R. Kenan, Jr. Charitable Trust’s pledge will begin to fund Posse Arts Program students in the 2023-24 academic year and will support additional cohorts of students in the 2024-25 and 2025-26 academic years.

Jolie CannavaCebastian GomezZitali GracianoLeslie Garcia-RiveraRubee CarterAndrea EstradaJustice RatliffBryson FinkDavid Hernandez

The artists selected for the 2023 cohort of Arts Posse Scholars at UNCSA are:

  • Jolie Cannava (School of Drama), New World School of the Arts, Miami
  • Cebastian Gomez (School of Design & Production, wig and makeup design), Denver North High School, Denver, Colorado
  • Zitlali Graciano (School of Music, voice), Moises E. Molina High School, Dallas, Texas
  • Leslie Garcia-Rivera (School of Filmmaking), Mallard Creek High School, Charlotte
  • Rubee Carter (School of Filmmaking), G.W. Carver High School of Engineering & Science, Philadelphia
  • Andrea Estrada (School of Filmmaking), School for the Talented & Gifted, Dallas, Texas
  • Justice Ratliff (School of Music, horn), Olive Branch High School, Olive Branch, Mississippi
  • Bryson Fink (School of Music, double bass), Sumter High School, Sumter, South Carolina
  • David Hernandez (School of Drama), New World School of the Arts, Miami

About the Posse Arts Program

The Posse Arts Program recruits, trains and supports cohorts of students interested in majoring in the creative arts. In addition to demonstrating exceptional leadership and academic potential, candidates for the program must also show artistic promise. Admitted students attend college in a cohort of peers (an “Arts Posse”) and receive support in the form of eight months of leadership training leading up to matriculation, full-tuition scholarships from partnering institutions, and on-campus mentoring.

In addition to UNCSA, the Arts Program partner institutions are Bard College and California Institute of the Arts. In partnership with outstanding undergraduate arts programs, the Posse Arts initiative aims to increase the diversity of leaders in these critically important fields.

About The Posse Foundation

The Posse Foundation identifies, recruits and trains exceptional young leaders from urban public high schools and sends them in multicultural teams — Posses — of 10 students to top colleges and universities across the country.

Since 1989, Posse and its partner colleges and universities have selected more than 10,000 Posse Scholars. Award recipients have collectively won close to $2 billion in full-tuition merit scholarships from Posse partner schools. Posse Scholars graduate at a rate of 90 percent, significantly above the national average.

Of the nearly 17,000 students nominated for the Posse Scholarship this year, 820 will be selected for this prestigious award. Those who win are chosen for their tremendous leadership and academic potential. Posse believes they will become the leaders we need, in every field, and better represent the voices of all Americans.

The Posse Foundation is a national initiative with program chapters in Atlanta, the Bay Area, Boston, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New Orleans, New York City and Washington, D.C. Through its Arts, Veterans and Virtual program initiatives, Posse also recruits post-9/11 U.S. veterans and high school students from other cities across the United States.

About the Miranda Family Fund

For over 40 years, the Miranda Family has championed community activism. They have created and supported institutions that have served both underserved populations in Upper Manhattan and communities throughout New York City, across the country, and in Puerto Rico. Luis A. Miranda, Jr. and Dr. Luz Towns-Miranda are proud parents to Luz Miranda-Crespo, Lin-Manuel Miranda and Miguel Towns. Now as adults, Luz and Lin-Manuel are married to Luis Crespo and Vanessa Nadal, respectively, with children of their own. They continue to foster the family’s commitment to advocacy for education, the arts, and social justice — along with a sustained focus on relief and rebuilding efforts in Puerto Rico post-Hurricane Maria.


The University of North Carolina School of the Arts (UNCSA) is a top-ranked performing arts conservatory and America’s first state-supported arts school. The nation’s only public university of five arts conservatories on one campus, UNCSA trains emerging artists for careers in dance, design and production, drama, filmmaking, and music at the undergraduate, graduate and high school levels, with free high school tuition for in-state residents. UNCSA provides industry-leading training in a safe and inclusive environment where students are encouraged to leverage the arts as a mechanism for change. Interdisciplinary opportunities arising from the unique arts ecosystem on campus at UNCSA prepare artists to enter an evolving arts industry. Established by the N.C. General Assembly in 1963, the School of the Arts opened in Winston-Salem (“The City of Arts and Innovation”) in 1965 and became part of the University of North Carolina System when it was formed in 1972. For more information, visit www.uncsa.edu.

Contact Media Relations

Get the best news, performance and alumni stories from UNCSA.

February 16, 2023