Armed with school-issued laptops, small groups of high school and college students settle across the Pomona High School campus on a Friday afternoon. The college students are there as collaborators, sharing experiences of what it’s like to go to The Claremont Colleges, but they're also there to learn from their younger peers as they develop a final project: a series of podcast shows on topics learned in their respective Chicano-Latino Studies classes.
The podcasts are the semester-long project of a unique partnership between Pomona High’s only ethnic studies class, Chicano-Latino Studies, and Pomona College Professor of Sociology and Chicana/o Latina/o Studies Gilda Ochoa’s Chicanas/os-Latinas/os in Contemporary Society course.
The partnership, which started in 2009, continues every spring and each semester culminates in a community gathering, or encuentro, where students share with their families, friends and teachers what they learned throughout the semester. This year, the gathering takes place at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday, April 27 at The dA Center for the Arts, 252 S Main St. in Pomona.
“The partnership captures what the crux of Chicana/o Latina/o studies should be about,” says Ochoa. “It’s about connecting with our surrounding communities in ways that are authentic, long-term and non-hierarchical – this is at the foundation of Chicana/o studies.”
Nearly every other week, Pomona College students carpool over to the nearby high school, which is only a 10-minute drive away, and step into a classroom to share experiences of what it’s like to go to a liberal arts college, while also learning from the high school students about Chicana/o Latina/o history – and many other topics. In return, the high school students, dropped off by their parents, visit the College several times for Ochoa’s Monday night seminar that features local experts and speakers that bring to life the issues they’re reading about in the textbooks.
For their joint final project, the students are recording a podcast on any topic related to ethnic studies, and from start to finish they do it all: assign each other roles, research and read, draft their talking points, record and edit.
“We’re doing ours on politics and pop culture,” says Felipe Rosales, a Pomona High senior as his fellow group members hover over a laptop. “We’re focusing on artists like YG and Snoop Dogg who use politics in their music and how they get communities to come together to get involved.”
A second group is talking about identity and intersectionality and breaking down what that means.
“Intersectionality is a big topic to talk about, you have to look at everything about an individual, whether they are Black, a man, from a certain city, if they are a Latina woman… There’s so much more to an individual,” explains Joey Nava, a senior at Pomona High.
Lanna Sanchez ’19 adds, “We’re also talking about personal stories in the podcast, about the different experiences we’ve had with different identities. We wanted to put out a definition that is accessible to everyone.”
As students work together, share stories and experiences, another important thing begins to happen – the college experience and The Claremont Colleges are demystified for the high schoolers, who span the 10th through 12th grades, says Pomona High teacher Arturo Molina.
“The Pomona High School students know [The Claremont Colleges] are really prestigious schools that are very difficult to get into. But through working with the college students, they learn that they [the college students] are not that much different or different at all.”
The realization gives them confidence, says Molina.
In addition, Molina says the partnership “shakes things up” and helps break the routine that settles over a class and opens both sets of students to history and knowledge they don’t get in their other classes.
Molina points to another benefit for his students, “It’s one of the few times that my students get to act as equals with college students. When college students come [to campus], they come as speakers or tutors. This project is unique because they’re equals: we’re like you, we’re sharing ideas. In the tutor role, one person talks and one person listens.”
High school senior David Alamillo says, “We learn a lot of about history in other classes but we don’t learn about history that is related to you or current events that show how stuff is still happening today that happened in the past.”
For the college students, the opportunity to partner with the local high school students is one way to break through the “Claremont bubble.”
“This class emphasizes we can break down these borders. The partnership is so valuable because we can learn from each other,” says Sanchez. “It makes me realize we need to take more of these community collaboration classes. It’s about learning more than how to write a paper, you learn how to make connections with other people.”