Meet Five Members of the Class of 2026

First years fall 2022

The Class of 2026 has been on campus for about a month and is settling into classes and extracurricular activities. Five members of the first-year class share what brought them to Pomona, how it’s been so far and what their hopes are.

Gianna Hutton

Hutton, from Miami, Florida, had her heart set on attending Pomona since the ninth grade. The “stars aligned” her senior year, she says, when she was chosen as a Posse Scholar and then matched with Pomona through the college access program.

As a climate activist, Hutton is eager to study environmental analysis at Pomona as well as to learn from activists and organizations on the West Coast. In Miami, she was a part of Sunrise Movement, a youth climate change initiative, and looks forward to joining the local hub at the Claremont Colleges.

During her first Introduction to Environmental Analysis class at Pomona, Hutton became teary eyed. “In high school, there was really one academic course that you could take to learn about climate change and the environment and sustainability in general. There wasn’t a lot of opportunity to learn in a formal academic setting the theory and history,” Hutton says. “Having the privilege to learn about this topic and apply it to community work has been really rewarding.”

Hutton finds the students at Pomona to be “deeply passionate” and feels “very excited, very humbled to be here. And very excited for the years to come.”

Keola Kaniho

Leaving Hawaii for college, Kaniho wanted to go to a place where the weather wasn’t too different while still stretching him out of his comfort zone. “I needed to see the world,” he says.

So far, the diversity of the student body and the political involvement of students have stood out to Kaniho. “One of the biggest reasons I came here is because I like the diversity and being able to understand other people’s cultures,” he says.

Kaniho has also appreciated the opportunity to study topics beyond what was offered at home. “I really enjoy my sociology class,” he says. “I kind of just took it because I had a free open spot. But it turns out I really enjoy it. I love the readings.”

After graduating, Kaniho hopes to study law and is looking to get involved with Mock Trial on campus. He recently made the men’s club volleyball team and is looking forward to playing with a new team.

Kaniho jokes that he would like to start a rice club. One of the biggest differences he has encountered here is the food. “Rice is everywhere in Hawaii,” he says. “You eat pretty much everything with rice.”

Tara Mukund

Originally from India, Mukund lived in South Korea the past four years and chose Pomona for its academic flexibility and small size. Even though she wasn’t able to visit the campus in person before she enrolled, she was confident that Pomona was a good fit for her.

Mukund is considering majoring in public policy analysis and computer science.

Since high school, Mukund has built mental health software with Astra Labs to serve marginalized communities, reaching 5 million users. In the future, she would like to work in the realm of digital policy and rights. She has “already had enriching experiences involving digital policy with really great conversations with faculty and students alike.”

Having been an exhibiting artist in high school, Mukund plans on being involved in art in some way, whether through an art minor, clubs such as Catalyst Collective and the Agave Review, or the Benton Museum of Art at Pomona College.

Mukund will also work at the Women’s Union this year. Throughout high school, she was involved in feminist spaces, including the UN Foundation's Girl Up chapter at her high school.

“I hope to give as much as I receive from the college experience,” Mukund says.

Priscilla Perez

Growing up, Perez moved around a lot, but they spent the last three years in Alturas, a rural Northern California city with a population under 3,000. Their high school didn’t offer any Advanced Placement classes, so they took 15 courses at the local community college.

As a QuestBridge Scholar, Perez hoped to go to college in California. Claremont was ideal because their grandparents and cousin live within a short drive.

Classes have been “hard and challenging,” but Perez has found an abundance of support through the Quantitative Skills Center, the Pomona Scholars of Science cohort and mentor sessions. It’s not competitive, they say, and “everyone’s in the same boat.”

Perez is considering majoring in biology or neuroscience on their way to becoming a doctor. Their motivation to practice medicine stems from often being homeless in their youth.

“The summer after my freshman year of high school, I was in a shelter with a lot of different folks,” Perez says. “A lot of people were just sick. I thought, ‘Wow, these people really do need help. Being a doctor would be really helpful.’”

Anticipating their time at Pomona, Perez says, “I think it could become home. I can put down roots.”

Bailey Williams

Williams comes from Dallas, Texas. Since the eighth grade, he dreamed of attending college in California.

After he was accepted at Pomona, he was offered the opportunity to apply for the Perspectives on Pomona program, which gives prospective students from underrepresented groups the opportunity to visit the campus. During his stay, Williams felt that people cared about him. “Administrators knew my name without having seen me. They knew where I’m from. They remembered things I had in my application.”

Williams looks forward to studying computer science while still being able to explore the humanities. He is passionate about poetry and this semester is taking African American Poetics with Professor Amaud Jamaul Johnson, an award-winning poet who grew up in Compton, California.

“While school is hard, teachers are very helpful. They’re very insistent that you create a relationship outside of the class,” Williams says.

In the future, Williams would like to practice law and do pro bono work on the side. “I want to be in a place where I can help spread the resources that the black community gets,” he says. “My two priorities will be helping black children and helping black women, especially when they’re put in situations where they’re not given the resources they need.”