Bryan Coreas ’11 has been involved with the Pomona College Academy for Youth Success (PAYS) since he was admitted to the summer program as a high school student in 2004. He worked as a student coordinator while he was attending Pomona, and this year was hired as the post-baccalaureate fellow in charge of educational outreach. When his 16-month appointment ends, he plans to attend graduate school and become a math teacher.
“I started PAYS when it was still called the Summer Scholars Enrichment Program. Back then, there wasn’t an option to live on campus during your first summer, so I commuted from La Puente. It was amazing being at Pomona and getting to meet people from other schools, learning about other students’ experiences. I knew then I had to go to college. That’s where the program had the biggest impact for me.”
“During the school year, I would meet regularly with Laura Enriquez ’08. She was the only college advisor back then, and I remember her driving to all our houses, reminding us to keep our grades up and take our SATs. Laura, along with Wendy Chu, guided me in applying to a few colleges, including Pomona. When the acceptance letter finally came, I was at a conference for student government, so my mom called me to let me know. She was emotional about it. I was very calm: ‘All right, I got in.’ After I hung up, it sunk in, and a feeling of relief and joy set in.”
“I did research with Professor Roberto Garza-López and took a class from Professor Gilda Ochoa during the summer program, and both of them continued to have a big impact on me when I came to Pomona as a college student.They helped me feel I was part of a supportive community and made me think about what kind of impact I wanted to have as a teacher. One of the things I know I want to do is recreate what happened for me here—professors listening, inviting you out to grab a bite, really creating a bond with the students.”
Becoming a Teacher
“I got involved with the Draper Center during my first year. They needed Latino males to be role models for Pomona Partners’ weekly mentoring program at Fremont Academy and asked if I would help out. It was fun, and very different from what I’d been doing as a college student. It was also the first time I had hands-on experience in the classroom and it made me excited about the possibility of becoming a teacher.The next fall I started doing college advising with PAYS students and helped guide three high school students through the applications process.”
Shaping the Clay
“It’s been great to be back at the Draper Center and with PAYS. There have been so many changes in the program since I first came here, with the addition of more college advisors and community meetings in the residence halls that help students from all three classes get to know one another. As the post-bac fellow, I’m getting the chance to really dive in, to help shape the clay. After the summer, one of my projects will be working on developing a new Draper Center program for sixth- to 12th-grade students.”
“…Much is Expected”
“Pomona is a special place. It has given me a lot. Maria Tucker [director of the center] likes to say, ‘From those to whom much is given, much is expected.’ I believe in that ideology. I was given this opportunity and want to use it to the best of my ability.”
First Decade PAYS Off
When 30 high school students cross the stage in Big Bridges in July, the ceremony will not only recognize their success in completing the Pomona College Academy for Youth Success (PAYS). The event also will cap the first decade of the popular program geared toward promising teens who come from low-income families and are often the first in their families to attend college. Founded in 2003, the college access program has made it possible for participants from local high schools to attend some of the most prestigious colleges and universities in the country, including Harvard, Yale, Stanford and each of the five undergraduate Claremont Colleges. And it’s free. The high school students get room, board and classes at no charge.
Each summer, Pomona College welcomes 90 high school students to campus for the four-week academic program. The students—rising 10th-, 11th- and 12thgraders—live in one of the residence halls and attend writing seminars and math classes taught by Pomona professors. In the third year, PAYS students conduct research with professors on topics ranging from Shakespeare to robots. College students, most of them from Pomona, work as teaching and resident assistants and writing and math tutors. Each T.A. also designs and teaches an elective. “The hallmark of our program is that students start as 9th-graders and spend three consecutive summers with us,” says Maria Tucker, director of the Draper Center for Community Partnerships, which oversees PAYS. “Not many college access programs do that.”
Workshops about leadership and college admissions are offered to all students, while students about to enter their senior year meet one-on-one with members of the Pomona admissions staff to work on essays and hone their interview skills. Meals in the dining hall, pick-up Frisbee games, field trips and opportunities to participate in theatre and other extracurricular activities round out the introduction to college life. “We try to mirror the campus environment, where there are tugs on your time and you have to learn to say ‘no’ if you have work to do,” says Tucker. “We get feedback from parents, who tell us that the person they dropped off at the beginning of the summer is different from the person they picked up. They see an increased level of independence.”
The PAYS program doesn’t end after four weeks. The staff offers year-long college advising, an SAT prep program and bilingual financial aid workshops, and works with local schools to identify qualified students for the summer session. They also meet with the families of current PAYS students to talk about the steps needed to apply to college. As a result of these efforts, 100 percent of the students who graduate from PAYS go on to college, according to Tucker. In the past seven years, 24 PAYS graduates have enrolled at Pomona, the highest number of any college or university. Six of those students, who will be part of the class of ’16, will return to campus this summer for the PAYS graduation. At the end of the ceremony, they will hear their names and college destinations announced, along with those of their fellow alums. It’s an emotional moment for the students and their families, almost as much as it is for Tucker and her staff.
“You put your energy and love into it, and these kids are going to amazing colleges that many of them and their families never thought could be possible,” says Tucker. “People’s lives are forever changed.”