Two Pomona Seniors Win $15,000 Napier Grants for Social Change Projects

Sophie Roe and Alejandro Guerrero

Two Pomona College seniors have won Napier Awards for Creative Leadership to carry out individual projects for social change immediately upon graduation. Every year, two students from The Claremont Colleges are selected by the Napier Initiative for a $15,000 grant for their proposed projects.

The Napier Initiative is a partnership between Pilgrim Place and The Claremont Colleges to encourage leadership in social change. Every year, each college can nominate up to three seniors in the fall to become Napier Fellows. The fellows meet at Pilgrim Place several times during the academic year and are paired with a mentor from Pilgrim Place to stimulate intergenerational learning. Two grant winners are chosen from the fellows.

Alejandro Guerrero ’19, an anthropology major who was born in Hidalgo, Mexico, but raised in Charlotte, North Carolina, and president of the Associated Students of Pomona College, will continue the oral history project, “Voces de Cambio” (Voices of Change), that he started his junior year with Professor of Anthropology Joanne Nucho and Gente Organizada, a nonprofit organization in the city of Pomona.  

Guerrero will spend his year working directly with local high school youth at Gente Organizada, training them in anthropology methodology to conduct interviews with local changemakers – residents who have been involved in efforts to create social change in the city of Pomona. The goal is creating a sustainable project where youth will be empowered to uncover the stories of positive change in their own city and ultimately exhibit this work to the public.

The idea for the project was born during Guerrero’s sophomore year, when he took Nucho’s Anthropology of Environmental Justice course. Through the class, he connected with local activists in the city of Pomona, including Gente Organizada’s executive director Jesus Sanchez. Since then, Guerrero has become deeply involved in the organization, working with local organizers, many of them Latina immigrant mothers of school-aged children.

"I want to help change the stigma associated with the city of Pomona and I want to use photography and video to do it,” says Guerrero, who hopes that the youth will create short videos appealing to young audiences and inspire them to see the cultural wealth of history and heritage in their city.

Guerrero and Nucho secured initial funding for Voces de Cambio during spring of 2018 after winning Pomona College’s inaugural Presidential Challenge Grant, a $10,000 award that allowed them to purchase videography equipment for interview and digital editing stations for the archive. The Napier Award will allow Guerrero to stay in Pomona for an additional year after graduation and continue to train youth and grow the project into a self-sustaining program for Gente Organizada.

Guerrero ultimately plans to pursue a Ph.D. in anthropology or medical anthropology and focus on community partnerships. “I want my research to be impactful and make a lasting mark on communities.” 

Sophie Roe ’19, a double major in public policy analysis and biology from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, will continue Pomona Employment Partners (PEP), a student volunteer program that connects individuals experiencing homelessness in the city of Pomona with employment opportunities by providing assistance with job searches, applications, resumés and other assistance at Hope for Home.

Roe founded PEP under the Draper Center’s Hunger and Homelessness Initiatives in fall 2017. Since then, she has expanded the project thanks to a $15,000 grant from the Strauss Foundation which allowed PEP to hire a four-student leadership team, recruit students from surrounding colleges to volunteers and incorporate iPads and other technology.

In the fall of 2018, Roe says PEP faced challenges with securing job placements due to the many barriers to employment that clients face. In response, she reached out to Goodwill Southern California in hopes of creating an agreement that would facilitate PEP client placement at Goodwill stores.

Thanks to Roe’s work, Hope for Home has now signed on Goodwill as its on-site employer. Goodwill will soon begin a paid job training program with PEP volunteers serving as co-facilitators.

Roe plans to use the Napier award to further develop and co-implement the Goodwill Job Training program at Hope for Home. The award will allow for restructuring roles for PEP volunteers who are building and continuously evaluating project outcomes and soliciting participant feedback.

The Goodwill program is slated to begin July 1 and Roe hopes that it will prove to be an enriching experience for both residents and PEP volunteers alike.

Roe plans to enter medical school soon in the near future and become a primary care physician to provide accessible and effective health care services to people who have substance abuse disorders and/or are experiencing homelessness.