The Class of 2027 comes to Pomona College from 39 states and 34 countries, with plans to study the humanities, social sciences and STEM subjects. The 410 new first-year students on campus this school year represent one of the most ethnically and racially diverse classes in college history.
Six classmates reflect on what brought them to Pomona, how the first two months have treated them and what the future has in store.
Gabby Aiona ’27
When deciding where to attend college, Gabby Aiona sought a college not unlike his high school in Waimea, Hawaii. Ideally, the school would have small class sizes, a tight-knit campus community and be somewhere with immaculate weather.
Pomona College checked all the boxes, he says.
Through the Perspectives on Pomona (POP) program, Aiona got a firsthand glimpse of life on campus, making his decision to continue his studies in Claremont a no-brainer.
“I enjoy that you’re able to expand on ideas and ask questions you wouldn’t be able to in a bigger class at, say, a larger college,” he says. “Small classes are where I can actually dive into ideas rather than being in a lecture.”
An offensive lineman on the Sagehen football team, Aiona has met upperclassmen who’ve showed him the ropes and classmates he’ll know through graduation. In its own way, the gridiron has become an auxiliary classroom on campus, somewhere Aiona has learned “another form of discipline and how to build on yourself and get better,” he says.
Aiona plans to study economics, and balancing his classwork with his football responsibilities has been a crash course in time management.
While not immune to the occasional bout of homesickness, Aiona enjoys the college vibe in the nearby Claremont Village.
“Everyone’s aware of Pomona,” he says, “and they’re all real friendly. It’s a really nice community.”
Daniel Coker ’27
Daniel Coker came to Pomona from Charlotte, North Carolina, because he wanted an intimate campus environment where he would be more than “just a number.” He also valued the opportunities for research, study away and fellowships.
Ultimately, the Spring POP program, which brought Coker to campus for a visit, was what won him over. He found the people at Pomona to be “really warm,” and the physical campus, with its abundant greenery and beautiful architecture, drew him in.
Coker says “he has adjusted well” to being at Pomona. He has made friends throughout the Claremont Colleges and has joined Model UN, the track and field team and the executive board of the Black Student Union.
He hopes to major in international relations and perhaps statistics also to serve as a foreign service officer in the future. Coker’s current classes include statistics for politics and international relations, political and comparative international economy, and Latin American environmental history.
Coker says of his classes: “It’s Pomona, it’s hard, but the teachers really help you out. The faculty are absolutely incredible.”
Hudson Colletti ’27
When applying for colleges, Hudson Colletti wanted to be at a smaller school with proximity to a big city. Growing up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the Southern California weather and the allure of Los Angeles beckoned him across the country.
Colletti is planning on double majoring in computer science and economics, with hopes to pursue entrepreneurship or consulting in the future.
Classes have been “definitely challenging,” he says. “I come from a rigorous course load in high school, but it’s still definitely an upgrade.”
When not in class or studying, Colletti runs in the mornings and heads to Pomona’s gym in the afternoons. He also spends time playing music on pianos in the dorm lounges.
His dorm room, which he says is “a very big room,” is a social hub. “I have a little putting green since my roommate and I both golf.”
On the weekends, Colletti alternates between golfing and finding other off-campus excursions in the greater Los Angeles area.
Back on campus, Colletti has enjoyed making friends at the other Claremont Colleges. “It’s been nice to meet people from other schools,” he says. “I definitely appreciate that.”
Sophia Lee ’27
Coming from Tucson, Arizona, Sophia Lee values the ability to return home easily and for her parents to visit her on campus. Playing on the women’s volleyball team, along with her brother Ethan Lee ’26 playing on the men’s tennis team, affords Lee many excuses to have her parents visit.
When she first came to Pomona’s campus as a younger sibling, she “fell in love with it.” Attending Pomona “was absolutely the right decision,” Lee says.
The students at Pomona have been a highlight and made Lee feel welcome. She says students on campus are “super friendly and open to meeting new people” and “supportive and loving.”
Mentor sessions, facilitated by upper-division students, have been especially helpful in supporting her in her coursework. “The mentors explain things and cater to what I need. If I have any questions, I can just ask one of them.”
Lee is currently on the prehealth track, considering a major in psychology or neuroscience. She enjoys STEM classes but has also relished the opportunity to take non-STEM classes, including a media studies class this semester.
“It’s been super interesting and a class that I haven’t taken before,” says Lee. “It’s nice to not be so STEM heavy.”
Julissa Pinedo ’27
One of five children of immigrant parents from Mexico and El Salvador, Julissa Pinedo is grateful to be attending college 15 miles away from her family in West Covina, California.
Ever since her cousin graduated from Pomona in 2010, the school has been Pinedo’s mother’s “dream school” for her. When Pomona offered Pinedo an acceptance letter and a good financial aid package, her family decided together to have her attend.
Pinedo has her sights set on becoming a doctor or physician’s assistant. “I really want to help people especially from low-income communities,” she says. “It is truly my passion.”
Her classes have been challenging, but “I’m getting through it week by week,” she says.
Pinedo has found immeasurable support in the Pomona Scholars of Science cohort, an academic cohort that helps foster a successful transition for first-generation and low-income students. The cohort, which meets biweekly with an advisor and weekly with each other, also gathers to study for tests and do homework together.
“We rely on each other,” Pinedo says. “I’ve found my community there.”
Mariela Tamez-Elizondo ’27
Mariela Tamez-Elizondo was one of 74 students in her graduating high school class. Across four years at IDEA College Preparatory San Juan in South Texas, Tamez-Elizondo’s peers were more community than classmates, she says, and she wanted college to feel the same.
With her heart set on studying economics and art, class discussions on the topic du jour have nudged Tamez-Elizondo out of her shell.
“I never had anything like that at home, where you sit and talk about readings,” she says.
In her spare time, Tamez-Elizondo recharges in the 5C Girls in Lifting & Fitness Club, an extracurricular activity she says “helps me be at peace and get my mind off all the work I have to do.” Tamez-Elizondo has also joined the 5C Women in Finance Club to learn a thing or two about a taboo subject back home. “I want to know how to help my family,” she says.
By school year’s end, Tamez-Elizondo hopes to cast aside any doubt she belongs at Pomona.
“One of the hardest things has been overcoming imposter syndrome,” she says. “So I want to understand that I’m here for a reason and deserve this education just as much as everyone else does. I have a passion for learning, and I feel I can explore that here.”