Dropping by Pomona College Academy for Youth Success (PAYS) classrooms yesterday reminds me why the future is both hopeful and challenging. Bright students, too often from under-resourced high schools, may not see a path to college or fully understand the opportunities a college education presents over the course of their lives. Seeing the PAYS four-week summer academy, part of a year-round college preparatory program, in action affirms the role that colleges like Pomona can play in changing that narrative.
Expert math faculty, including Shahriar Shahriari, Gabriel Chandler and Adolfo Rumbos, joined by teaching assistants who are mostly current Pomona College students and some of whom were once PAYS students themselves, lead classes that take students beyond the mechanics of math to the meaning and relevance of mathematics.
I was surprised to learn how this challenging curriculum and enthusiastic faculty has already influenced many PAYS graduates over the past 12 years to pursue degrees in STEM fields. According to Draper Center for Community Partnerships (which runs PAYS) Director Maria Tucker, students tell her: “I didn't feel learning math was a possibility for me and now I love it.” Students are learning that math plus confidence equals barrier-breaking skills they can take into their PAYS research projects and college practice interviewing sessions, as well as back to their high school as they navigate applying to and succeeding at top colleges across the country.
We know from years of studies how important college preparatory programs can be in changing the trajectory of the lives of young people from low-income backgrounds. Pomona is honored and thankful to be among the many colleges whose faculty and students contribute their summers to the success of these important programs. What was evident this morning was how much the PAYS students advance our community by joining us each summer. --David Oxtoby