A dive into 5C pool culture

An aerial view of the Scripps Pool at the Tiernan Field House.
The 5C pools provide havens for students to cool off, hang out with friends, get a nice tan, meet people, do homework or simply relax. (Florence Pun • The Student Life)

In the time of heatwaves which turn Southern California into a scorching sauna, the pools at the Claremont Colleges have become a savior to many students. The pools provide havens for students to cool off, hang out with friends, get a nice tan, meet people, do homework or simply relax. 

But even greater than these activities is the sense of culture and community that is palpable on the pool deck. These little oases bring such value to campus as a spot for hanging out with friends, being productive and completing homework and more. 

Camille Bernard PO ’24 is a lifeguard at Pomona College’s Pendleton Pool, which she argues is the “chillest” pool of the 5Cs since it offers something for everyone to enjoy. But its biggest asset in her opinion is the sense of “wellness and self-care” that it brings to the community.

“[It’s] super chill, super relaxed and [has] such good energy. Everyone is just there to relax [and] get work done, and it’s just very peaceful.”

Ava Pandey SC '25

“Since it’s not very crowded, I think it’s a pretty judgment-free zone,” Bernard said. “You can come at any athletic ability and either just tan and do whatever you want or you can swim laps, so it’s both for the student athletes and for the non-student athletes.”

Ava Pandey SC ’25 also recognizes this asset at Scripps College’s Sallie Tiernan Field House.

“[It’s] super chill, super relaxed and [has] such good energy,” Pandey said. “Everyone is just there to relax [and] get work done, and it’s just very peaceful.”

Like many other students on a blazing Saturday afternoon, Pandey and Audrey Scott SC ’25 fled to the Scripps pool. In their bathing suits, wrapped in beach towels, their hair dripping from swimming, Scott agreed with Pandey’s description of the Scripps pool and added that it has a unique vibe and atmosphere that “feels like I’m in a spa.” 

New to campus this year, Emily Pollins SC ’26 also noted how the pool’s spa-like feel enhances the relaxed atmosphere. 

“I like that it’s not so industrial,” Pollins said. “It feels like a resort, so I really do feel like I’m escaping when I’m there even though I’m still on campus and I still have responsibilities.”

The outlier for many is Claremont McKenna College’s Matt M. Axelrood Pool, which has a main purpose of competitive rather than leisurely swimming. 

“It’s really just used for swim and dive and water polo, and there are some rec hours… it’s not really meant for lounging,” Lifeguard Martie Fairchild SC ’26 said. “The pool is mostly used to play water polo games or for the swim and dive team; there’s not a lot of people just there for fun.”

At the neighboring school, Evie Burrows White PZ ’26 expressed her love for the polar opposite nature of Pitzer’s relaxed and friendly pool that makes it “like a lot of spaces at Pitzer.” Yet, what makes the pool different then other locations across campus is that it is especially helpful to first-years in acclimating to the social environment. 

“I adore the Pitzer pool,” Burrows White said. “It’s a really accessible and welcoming space for students, especially freshmen. It adds a lot to the freshman experience because we all live in the dorms around the pool. Especially in my first few weeks here it was a great way to meet people and to get to know my friends better.” 

Many students consider the pools as a sort of escape, whether it be from academic responsibilities or other stressors. Lizbeth Valdivia-Jauregui SC ’23 works at Scripps’ Tiernan Field House and noted the pool and its atmosphere as the facility’s greatest benefit. 

“I think the biggest value that the pool brings to the community is just being able to relax,” Valdivia-Jauregui said. “I feel like here at Scripps there is a culture [that] you have to produce, and you have to be doing work all the time, and I feel like the pool allows you to just literally relax and not be productive all the time and just enjoy yourself with friends.”

Conversely, the pools can also serve as a hotspot for productivity. For many students, it is a desired study spot where they can read and get work done, with swimming breaks in between. But no matter what activity students choose to participate in, the campus pools nonetheless add to students’ college experiences. 

“I feel like there’s something to be said about the fact that … we go to a school in Southern California, and we can just do this while a lot of other schools don’t really have that chance to have an outdoor pool,” Scott said. “Even when winter comes along and being able to be outside and have a cool place to go is nice.”

Overall, there is an apparent vibrant community and culture surrounding the beautiful, blue waters of the 5Cs that students enjoy all year long. There is such a strong love for the pools that students, like Scott, said there are very few things they would change.

As a Scripps student, Scott wishes the field house pool was open to all the 5Cs and not just CMS students. 

“I want it to be more accessible to other schools and be able to bring my friends from other schools, but I also kind of like sometimes just having it as just a nice, safe, comfortable place,” Scott said.

At Pomona, Bernard wished more students would take advantage of the pool. 

“There will be some hours [during my shifts] where no one’s at the pool which is surprising,” she said. “I think it’s because it’s tucked away pretty much at the end of the campus…it’s not utilized as much as the other resources here on campus…I think I would just advertise the pool more because it’s not utilized as often as I think it should be for a Southern California school.”

Pollins also only had one request: She said, laughing, “I would get more floaties, that’s it.”

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