The Pomona College Academy for Youth Success (PAYS), celebrated the graduation of its Class of 2013, on Friday, July 19, in a packed Bridges Hall of Music. The 29 graduates will be high school seniors this fall.

An intensive, three-year college preparation program, PAYS is designed to increase the pool of low income, first-generation students of color prepared to enter selective colleges. Student scholars participate from the summer after their ninth grade year until graduation.

Each summer, PAYS participants live on campus and engage in a rigorous, four week liberal arts curriculum intended to push students' academic boundaries and to foster community among the students and their college student mentors. Rising 12th graders are given the opportunity to work on a significant research project under the direction of a Pomona College faculty member. 

Highlights of the graduation celebration included a theatre performance by PAYS students on education and research poster presentations by the PAYS graduates. This year's research topics were:

  • Environmental Justice in the City of Pomona;
  • After All You've Done for Your Country, What Will It Do for You?;
  • Kaboom! Exploding Fruits; 
  • Differences in Random Walks Between One Jump and Two Jump Particles on Catalytic Surfaces; 
  • Theatre Gets Serious: Social Issues in Contemporary Drama: Research Projects in Theatre; and
  • Latino Casualties in the Vietnam War.

Eduardo Ramirez, a rising senior at Sierra Vista High School in Baldwin Park, worked with Pomona Prof. Dwight Whitaker and four other students photographing exploding fruit. "I really loved working with the high-speed camera," said Ramirez. "It's amazing how things can move so fast in the natural world that the naked eye can't see them. The analysis was somewhat labor intensive, but it was fun. I had no idea that plants reproduced this way. The two fruit seeds [Ruella ciliatiflora and Phaulopsis pulchella] diffuse at 35 mph, and we were some of the first people to see it in slow motion."

For Yesenia Perez, a rising senior at Pomona Catholic High School, the highlight of her time in PAYS was the sense of community. "My favorite part about PAYS though was working with the college admissions officers, especially working on our personal statements and college applications. I've made some really good bonds with the teaching assistants and staff, and they are all very encouraging about staying connected to the PAYS community."

At the end of the evening, the colleges that the members of the Class of 2013 will be attending this fall were revealed. Among those institutions were Bates College (2 PAYS students), Bucknell University, Cal Poly Pomona, Citrus College, Columbia University, CSU Los Angeles, CSU Northridge, Haverford College, Pitzer College, Pomona College (2), Sonoma State University, UC Berkeley (2), UCLA (5), UC Riverside, UC Santa Barbara and UC Santa Cruz.

Since the first group of PAYS students graduated in 2006, every graduate of the program has been accepted to a competitive four-year college or university. PAYS, which is managed by the Pomona College Draper Center for Community Partnerships, has approximately 90 participants each year.

"These colleges don't just happen," said Maria Tucker, director of the Draper Center and an associate dean of students, addressing the attendees. "They happen because you give 110 percent, and we push ourselves. We have high expectations and offer you support when you need it. And you rise to those expectations."