Humans of South Hills: Saniya Tillis – the road to Northwestern


Saniya poses for a photo after receiving the Posse Scholarship Award.

Saniya Tillis is a senior at South Hills High School and soon to be freshmen at Northwestern University. Not only will she be attending one of the nation’s top universities, but she will also be attending on a full tuition scholarship through the Posse Foundation, and that’s just one of her many accomplishments as a highly ambitious, inspiring and hardworking student and leader.

Tillis’s journey of success has been credited to her years of dedication to academics, school involvement and community service, and when she applied for a scholarship through the Posse Foundation her resume and kind heart made her the perfect candidate to receive the award.

“Posse has different locations around the world and the whole organization started off with someone saying, ‘I never would have dropped out of college if I had my posse with me’ and so they take ten kids and they give them full tuition scholarships and send them to college together. I heard about it through my friend’s mom who works in LAUSD and her school has a separate application just to be nominated for the scholarship. She asked if my school had the application as well, and I wasn’t sure, so I emailed Mrs. Hansen and she was able to nominate me,” Tillis said.

After being nominated, Saniya made it through several rounds of interviews. The initial interview being a group of 13-16 candidates, the second interview being one-on-one with a Posse staff member, and the final interview with Posse staff and the Northwestern admissions staff.

“The application process was three interviews. Interviewing was a skill I had to learn when I was young, so now I’ve gotten pretty ok at it,” Tillis said.

Saniya had already been informed that most of the finalists would find out if they were selected to receive the award or not the same day as the final interview.

“On December 1st, I finished my interview around 6 or 7 p.m. So I go upstairs to work on some homework, and I have a missed call from one of the Posse staff and he said they were missing my transcripts. So I called him back and they put me on a Zoom call, and asked me a couple questions about what it would mean to be a Posse Scholar and then they said ‘I hope you have your winter gear, because you’re going to Northwestern and I was shocked,” Tillis said.

Saniya’s service and involvement in her school and community played a pivotal role in the development of her leadership skills which earned her the scholarship. She joined a few clubs her freshman and sophomore years. Her junior year, she stepped into positions of greater responsibility and leadership within the clubs she was a part of by becoming the treasurer of Activism Club, Business Club and Science Club and becoming the Academic Follow Up Commissioner for Link Crew as well as the Community Service Commissioner for WESA [Women’s Empowerment Student Association]. During her sophomore and junior years, she also served as the Chief Finance Officer for the Virtual Enterprise Class and led her team to nationals.

Saniya has worked her way up to becoming the CEO of the Virtual Enterprise Team, President of WESA, President of NHS (National Honors Society), President of Link Crew, Vice President of Business Club and Treasurer of Girls Who STEM. She has also made many meaningful connections through her involvement. Tillis’s service goes beyond South Hills, as she’s even started her own non-profit organization, Students Uplifting Students, which aims to provide support, mentorship and resources for homeless students and homeless families in the community. Tillis shared about what it means to connect with community members and help those in need.

“I love doing work like that. I like going and being a part of something,” Tillis said.

Whether it’s starting a nonprofit organization, or taking her business team to nationals, Saniya has been able to accomplish many of the goals she set for herself and she did so with an attitude to always grow and always learn. She shared about her personal mentality and the mindset that has taken her so far.

“I feel like life continuously humbles me. Even though I’ve accomplished a lot, it’s never enough. Alway keep going, always keep learning because there’s always ways to grow and improve.”

Saniya poses in front of the South Hills High School Gym in Northwestern attire.
Saniya poses in front of the South Hills High School gym wearing Northwestern attire.