Peter Heckendorn ’22 is restless to change the world. As a sponsor at Pomona, he advocated for students under his care. He lobbied for new grading policies as a member of the Academic Procedures Committee. He ran for student body president with the platform “Put Students in the Room.”
His sister Marianna Heckendorn ’16 attributes this drive to his deep-seated empathy: “He wants everyone to be seen and known and valued.” Even as a three-year-old, she says, “He spotted a sad-looking woman from his perch in a shopping cart and asked if they could help her.”
Now, he has been awarded a competitive Coro Fellowship for Public Affairs for 2023-2024. As part of the New York City cohort, Heckendorn will learn about how policies are shaped through meetings with city leaders, rotational field placements across various industries and weekly seminars.
“Coro provides a superlative opportunity for those interested in public affairs,” says Jason Jeffrey, assistant director of fellowships and career advising. “Fellows receive experience in various sectors of society while undergoing intensive leadership training in a supportive cohort.”
After graduating from Pomona, Heckendorn immersed himself in different forms of “intense, fast-paced” work. First, he worked for One Fair Wage, an organizing group seeking to abolish the sub-minimum wage for tipped workers. He then managed a winning state senate campaign in Alaska and helped manage a winning statewide ballot campaign.
The Coro Fellowship will expose Heckendorn to new approaches to effecting change.
“Most of the political work I’ve done has been on campaigns, which are exciting and intense,” says Heckendorn. “But I think most lasting policy impact comes from more sustained and consistent effort than the up-and-down campaign cycle, and I’m excited to learn to do that work.”
Without a “set-in-stone, long-term plan” at this point in his life, Heckendorn looks forward to seeing what opportunities the Coro Fellowship will open for him.
He also looks forward to a more sustainable pace of life. He has been living in New York City since the spring and has relished spending time with fellow Pomona alumni, including his roommate. They host regular karaoke nights at their place with Pomona friends, and Heckendorn has also met several Pomona alumni playing in a recreational basketball league.
Camaraderie with Pomona people was a defining feature of his time at the College. He played on the men’s varsity soccer team, serving as a captain for two years and winning the Kappa Delta Award, given to an outstanding student who shows qualities of character and leadership. He self-effacingly says that he was able to major in mathematics only because of the emphasis on collaboration and teamwork in the department.
Heckendorn looks back at his time at Pomona with gratitude. “I feel lucky to have been in that place and not to have had look super far into the future,” he says. “I could just enjoy everything that was there and take classes just for the sake of taking the classes.”
Now, as he looks ahead, the future holds much potential.
“Coro is truly an incubator for our country’s next generation of leaders,” says Jeffrey. “Peter will no doubt shine in his Coro program, and Coro will help Peter develop into the thoughtful leader he’s sure to become.”