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Pomona to Host 700 High School Students for the Orange County AVID 9th Grade Leadership Conference

On Feb. 10 and Feb. 24, 350 ninth graders will visit Pomona College for the Orange County AVID Leadership Conference, which was organized in conjunction with the Pomona College Draper Center for Community Partnerships. The students, who come from 20 different Orange County high schools, will learn about college admissions, the liberal arts experience, financial aid, finding scholarships, take campus tours and attend two workshops on topics ranging from dance and theater to politics and computer science.

“What makes the visit to Pomona College exciting,” says Denise Harshman, AVID coordinator with the Orange County Department of Education, “is that many of our students have not been to any small, private colleges and are not aware of the wonderful opportunities and education at Pomona. Our AVID students are most familiar with the big public colleges and universities in Southern California. Some do go north, but not many. Some know of the private schools in Orange County but haven’t ventured out. Because AVID is like a family, I think it will be good for the students to see Pomona. It has that small family atmosphere where I think our students would fit in.”

AVID (Advancement via Individual Determination) is a college readiness system for students in the academic middle, which provides the rigor and support to succeed in a four-year university. Most of the students will be first-generation college students and many belong to groups underrepresented in higher education. The Orange County AVID Leadership Conference has been held at several public and private colleges in the past, but always in Orange County.

Pomona College Trustee Ranney Draper ’60, who is also a long-time supporter of Orange County’s AVID program, was instrumental in getting the conference and the students to Pomona. “On many levels, as a trustee, alum [and] a Draper Center supporter, this IS the type of outreach and community based learning we envisioned for the work of the Center. As a philanthropist, Orange County resident and long time supporter of the AVID college access programming and scholarships, it is very fulfilling to bring together our family’s passions…Pomona College, the Center and AVID. I am confident that most of these kids had never heard of Pomona College, Claremont or much about private colleges in general. I am also sure that new goals will be set and sparks lit, as a result of this conference that will change some of their lives.”

The visit by 700 students is quite an undertaking for Pomona College, which has a student population of 1,586. In addition to staff form the Draper Center, the event required the participation of almost 30 students, faculty and staff from Pomona Colleges and its sister Claremont Colleges.