An anonymous alumnus donated $5 million to Pomona College’s Draper Center for Community Partnerships to fund the Pomona Academy for Youth Success (PAYS) and to establish the Draper Center for Community Partnerships Fund.
PAYS is a college access program for approximately 90 rising high school sophomores, juniors, and seniors from the Inland Valley. The program allows students to experience a liberal arts curriculum at Pomona over the summer, and provides support during the academic year with resources such as SAT classes and bilingual financial aid workshops for students and their parents.
“It is targeting underrepresented students that have been traditionally underrepresented in college,” said Sergio Marin, assistant director of educational outreach at the Draper Center. “For us, that would be first-generation, low-income, African-American, Latino, Native American, Pacific Islander.”
María Tucker, director of the Draper Center and associate dean of students, provided TSL with a statement from Joshua Hernandez, who completed the PAYS program in 2010 and is now at Harvard College.
“PAYS validated me and taught me that what I had to say was important and that I could go toe-to-toe with the best students in the country,” Hernandez said.
He added that he often thinks of Pomona as a home than he thinks of Harvard as a home because of his transformative experience with PAYS.
“Overwhelmingly, the PAYS scholars feel that they are agents of change, and they do whatever is in their power to make other people in their community feel the same way,” said Priscilla Garcia, a post-baccalaureate fellow for educational outreach at the Draper Center.
The majority of Draper Center funding comes from endowed funds, grants, and private donations. However, donations as large as this gift are uncommon.
“I was ecstatic,” Marin said. “We really value the program and Pomona College … values it as well. I think one of the things is that every year we had to focus on fundraising some amount for the program, so eventually after the gift is complete we can use some of the interest on the endowment.”
Tucker wrote in an email to TSL that upon hearing the news of the donation, she felt “relief and gratitude.”
“PAYS is a life changing experience for Pomona students who work with the program as well as for PAYS participants,” she wrote.
Under President David Oxtoby’s leadership, Pomona has emphasized community engagement as a priority in its Strategic Plan, facilitating the pursuit of donations and other sources of funding for the Draper Center.
“The Draper Center has benefitted substantially from Advancement staff and Ranney E. Draper ’60 who have been critical to fundraising,” Tucker wrote. “Draper Center funding is truly a team effort that begins with communities around us including youth and families and faculty, staff and students.”
Approximately 50 college students are involved with the PAYS program, either working during the summer with the high school students in the program or during the year as advisers for high school seniors or as tutors.
“The college is learning how much students gain from engaging in community work, how it is almost necessary to be successful global citizens,” Marin said.
Marin also said that the center is still discussing how the donation will affect the development of PAYS.
“Does the budget really shift?” Marin said. “Does it really shift that much? We have been around for about 12 years. We have a lot of students graduating for college. What does this mean for our alumni network?”
Now that Draper Center directors do not have to spend as much time fundraising to cover the operating expenses of PAYS, they are focusing on the specifics of how the donation will affect future programs.
“If we know we are going to be here forever, we are thinking about programming and what the impact will be,” Marin said.