For many Pomona students, their time in college is spent not just writing papers, taking tests and attending classes to earn their degree. The true reward in their college experience lies in what they can give to others, whether it is access to a vital necessity, a path to a brighter future or a second chance in life.
Here are three students who exemplify what it means to find self-realization through programs and projects designed to improve the lives of others within and beyond the College gates.
Anaa Jibicho ’23
The global water crisis impacting more than a billion people is personal for economics major Anaa Jibicho. Born in Ethiopia, where access to clean, safe drinking water is limited, Jibicho lost two siblings due to water-related diseases. This experience pushed him to find a way to give people access to life’s most precious necessity – water.
Jibicho and a team of his peers, including Lamah Bility, fellow Pomona student Brian Bishop ’22 and Katja Reich ’23 of Scripps College worked to contribute a drop in the bucket of this crisis by forming Didomi. Named for the Greek word “to give,” Didomi is a social enterprise dedicated to combatting the water crisis through the sale of reusable water bottles.
“At our core, we understand the power a single individual can make,” Jibicho says. “We hope to continue empowering individuals and organizations to make it easy for them to give back and help against one of the biggest challenges of our lifetime.”
Over the last two years, the company has been able to give 50,000 people access to clean water and has made great strides in promoting environmental initiatives such as transitioning from plastic one-time-use bottles to reusable bottles. In fact, they’ve been working with George Washington University to do this by providing nearly 30,000 Didomi bottles.
Jibicho credits Didomi’s development to his liberal arts studies and participation in Pomona Ventures, a student organization focused on entrepreneurship.
“Liberal arts education enabled me to fundamentally interrogate and understand complex global issues and the functions of systems and individuals. Likewise, Pomona College surrounded me with a community of students and staff who are passionate about making a difference in the world. Pomona Ventures is a student group on campus that helped shape my outlook on entrepreneur,” says Jibicho.
Jose Francisco Carranza Celis ’22
Raised in South Central Los Angeles and the only English speaker in his household growing up, Jose Francisco Carranza Celis ’22 overcame many challenges, especially when it came to getting an education. He now spends his time at Pomona helping others do the same.
The first step toward that was joining Pomona College Academy for Youth Success (PAYS), a program that prepares high school students for success in college. Students come from populations traditionally underrepresented in higher education, including first-generation college students and low-income students.
After being accepted to Pomona College as a QuestBridge match, Carranza Celis, a molecular biology major, wanted to help the next generation of PAYS scholars and to that end became a tutor and college mentor for the program.
“PAYS changed my life, and I knew that I wanted to continue to be a part of it. Just as I was mentored by many smart and talented individuals while I was in the program, I too wanted to serve as a mentor for a lot of these high school students,” Carranza Celis says.
PAYS is not the only way Carranza Celis is paying it forward. He’s also involved in the English as a Second Language+ (ESL+) tutoring program, which gives Pomona College staff members the opportunity to improve their English speaking, writing, reading and computer literacy skills though one-on-one meetings with students.
“As the only English speaker in my family, I adopted a translator role at a very young age. I saw firsthand the challenges that came with living in the U.S. as a non-English speaker and I wanted to help other folks overcome this challenge,” Carranza Celis explains.
Both PAYS and ESL+ are among several other programs and volunteer opportunities run through the Draper Center for Community Partnerships, an outreach center that fosters connections between students, faculty, staff and the wider community.
“The community at Pomona College is what has really made my efforts possible, specifically the Draper Center community,” Carranza Celis adds.
Kiya Henderson ’23
Kiya Henderson ’23, an Africana studies major on the prehealth track, came to Pomona from New Orleans looking for an opportunity to not only explore her academic interests but her philanthropic ones as well.
With a growing concern for the disproportionate number of Black people imprisoned, she began volunteering with the Reintegration Academy. This program gives parolees access to life skills training, vocational education and career development, such as writing resumes and preparing for job interviews.
“My family has been directly affected by this, so it is especially important for me to try to make a difference in whatever way I can. It was also so fulfilling for me to be able to provide hope and assistance during the pandemic when so many were struggling to see the light at the end of the tunnel,” Henderson says.
Henderson also brings light to Project Sunshine, an organization that provides pediatric hospital patients with fun activities to do to maintain their mental and physical health. Aspiring to a career in neonatal and pediatric care, the program gives her an opportunity to connect with children in a hospital setting and learn skills she can use in her future profession.
“Being encouraged by faculty and other students to explore as many interests as I can during my time at Pomona has made me feel comfortable enough to recognize that I have multiple passions, which is normal and completely okay, and helped me give my all to those passions in whatever way I can,” Henderson says.