The Pomona College Academy for Youth Success (PAYS) is a college access program for high school students that aims to increase the pool of students prepared to enter highly selective colleges and universities. Students come from our surrounding communities and from populations traditionally underrepresented in college – first generation college-going, low income, and/or African-American, Latinx, Native American, Pacific Islander, Southeast Asian or other groups.
Pomona College Academy for Youth Success offers a multifaceted approach to prepare and support over ninety high achieving high school students for admission to and success in college. Rising high school sophomores, juniors, and seniors participate in a wide array of programs throughout the academic year geared to affect their perceptions of the college experience, to challenge them academically, and to develop a collaborative cohort striving for success in selective four year institutions. Each scholar participates in PAYS for three consecutive years, from acceptance at the end of their first year of high school until graduation. The program is committed to supporting each scholar in matriculating into competitive institutions completely free of charge to the students’ families.
PAYS is committed to working with all its scholars to achieve college success and assist them in making an educational quantum leap. The battery of challenging, in-depth programs works to address educational injustice, to meet the needs of high achieving students who attend under-resourced schools surrounding Pomona College’s community, and to instill and realize a vision of college accomplishment in PAYS students and families. PAYS has and continues to effectively support disadvantaged students from Southern California for college access and success. PAYS alumni unanimously agree that having information about course choices and financial aid makes all the difference and is in fact the decisive factor in sending high school students from underserved schools to college. In the face of California State budget cuts and already underfunded schools, PAYS continues to be a vital and successful resource that ensures its students achieve admission to selective four-year colleges or universities and flourish there.
Because PAYS is committed to working with low income students from local high schools, participants’ racial backgrounds represent those of Pomona’s surrounding communities. Of the 2015 participants, 2% identified as Native American/Alaskan, 18% as Asian/Pacific Islander 25% as Black/African American, 66% as Latinx, 4% as White, and 1% did not identify. The majority of 2015 participants (79%) reported themselves to be the first in their family to attend college. 75% of families in the program reported “low” and “very low” incomes, according to federal poverty guidelines.
The yearlong program works to support students in their preparation for postsecondary study and to inculcate a culture of college-bound achievement. During the summer, PAYS participants engage in a rigorous, four week liberal arts curriculum intended to push students’ academic boundaries and to foster community among students and college mentors. Participants enroll in demanding Critical Inquiry seminars taught by Pomona College professors that require active, attentive class participation and a minimum of three analytical papers. Math faculty lead seminars that require students to think critically, exercise problem-solving skills, and work on difficult, logic-based problem sets. Students are assigned at least one hands-on exercise each week that involves data collection and excel modeling. Trained college teaching assistants support students in learning and lead their own seminars. Seniors are involved in faculty research projects and begin the college application process. Through the summer, classroom training that fosters quantitative, analytical, and writing development is supplemented by a residential group context, close mentoring, and ongoing networking opportunities.
The scholastic rigors and intense community building of the summer are matched with an equally vigorous yearlong support system. Throughout the year, PAYS administrators continue to support scholars by providing an SAT preparation course and by coordinating Pomona College student “college advisors” who assist participants in their senior year during the college application and financial aid process. PAYS hosts bilingual financial aid workshops to ensure students and their families have the best knowledge to have their financial needs met.