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Pomona College’s Clarence “Motts” Thomas Honored by Pomona Unified School District

Clarence “Motts” Thomas, director of community and multicultural programs at Pomona College, was honored Tuesday with a community service award from the Pomona Unified School District. The award recognized Thomas for the work he’s done with Pomona Partners, a mentoring, tutoring and enrichment program at Fremont Middle School in South Pomona.

Each year Pomona Partners brings together about 75 seventh graders and 15-25 students from five of the Claremont Colleges. A Pomona student founded the program about 12 years ago. The program is run out of Pomona’s community and multicultural programs office, and Thomas is particularly pleased that the College has been able to continue its involvement for over a decade.

“The thing that I feel very good about is that Pomona hasn’t gone away,” Thomas said. “Our former president was wonderful…and President [David] Oxtoby has picked up that.”

Each Friday students from the five colleges tutor Fremont students and also act as mentors ready to offer advice and lend a friendly ear. Thomas hopes that the program exposes Fremont students to school and career options they might not otherwise consider.

“You build some trust, and you just try to shine a light in different areas for the kids,” he said.

Angie DeWitt, a senior at Pomona and coordinator of the program agrees. “For me it’s incredibly important to be talking to kids, even as young as middle school about college.”

The Fremont students also take part in enrichment activities led by Pomona Partners and planned in coordination with Fremont teachers. For example, when students were studying environmental issues they planted trees and heard talks on forestry.

But Fremont students aren’t the only ones to benefit. “It’s service learning in the best way,” Thomas said. Pomona students get the chance to really be involved personally in the community.

Thomas’s leadership leaves the college students free to concentrate on programming and organizing volunteers. “What’s really great about the program is that Motts takes care of all of the behind the scenes stuff and funding,” DeWitt said, “He’s kind of our boss.”

And Thomas benefits as well. “My payoff has been the personal satisfaction of knowing that I’m involved in something that’s making a difference,” he said. “You can’t save everybody; you can’t change the world. But when kids who normally wouldn’t have the opportunities to do the things we’ve done in Pomona Partners have that opportunity, that’s a pretty neat thing.”