Draper Center Brings High School Students to Pomona

More than 100 high school students from San Bernardino and the Victor Valley area visited Pomona College to learn about sustainability Nov. 23. The Draper Center for Community Partnerships, along with the 5C theater and environmental analysis departments, hosted the day-long event called “Sustainability and the Self.” This was part of a series of events in which local high school students view a play at Pomona, participate in related discussions, and experience parts of a liberal arts education before their senior year.

The impetus for the series came from the theater department, according to José Luis Gómez
PO ’16, a Draper Center student coordinator who was largely responsible for putting “Sustainability and the Self” together.

whole thing was the theater department’s idea,” Gómez said. “They wanted to get different
audiences in their performances, so they gave us this task of, ‘Here are these three different performances we’re doing throughout the year, and we want you to bring
in community members to see them.’ So they gave us the funding and the goal.
The Draper Center organized the rest.”

The first event, which took place in early November, featured the play In the Blood and focused on the topic of structural violence; the next will use the play Tartuffe to examine hypocrisy in religion. 

First up on the schedule for the “Sustainability and the Self” event were
two speakers: former Pomona chemistry professor Freeman Allen, and Karen
Christopher PO ’85, the director of the event’s play, Free As Air.

Allen discussed the science behind
sustainability, as well as ways to be sustainable in everyday life.
Christopher spoke about the interdepartmental collaboration involved in
bringing a performance piece about air and the environment to life.

Draper Center Assistant Director José Luis Ramirez, who is also head
of the Community Based Research and Learning team, said that the speakers were well-received despite the complexity in some of the topics.

“The students were receptive to the speakers,” Ramirez said. “Some of the students really
connected with what was being said, but in some cases it went over their heads.
I’m not sure if them being in a respective grade level had anything to do with
that, though.”

The students then attended a panel discussion led by Pomona students, and
broke out into small groups of eight to 10 people to discuss sustainability and
the college experience. Ali Goss PO ’16, another Draper Center student coordinator, said that the
small groups were extremely productive.

“A lot of these kids are first-generation students, so they don’t know what the college process is like,” she said. “College is this big, amorphous, scary place that they don’t want to go [to], but by
tangibly participating in a classroom experience and just coming here and meeting
students, it really opens up their eyes to that.”

part in small group discussions led by college students was an ideal way of
providing them with the opportunity for them to physically see themselves in
the space in the hopes of them considering a small liberal arts college as a
possible landing space for them,” Ramirez said.

After lunch, the students went on a tour of Pomona.

“We wanted to mix the outreach and the
sustainability,” Gómez said. “So the tour guides talked about sustainability on the tour,
taking students to the new dorms and the Farm, talking about Green Bikes, Green Boxes, and all the little things that Pomona does for sustainability.”

Finally, the students watched the performance of Free As
, an entirely student-written production. Ramirez thought that the play was an important part of the event. 

“If we think about the funding for
arts education, especially in public schools, that support is dwindling every
year and every semester,” he said. “So for us to provide the opportunity to
bring students to campus, especially students that are in districts where arts
funding is almost nonexistent, that’s something we’re happy to do to provide
the experience for them.”

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