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CMC Writing Center Consultants Help Students Apply to College

For most students at the 5Cs, the college application process is a happily forgotten memory. Through the Pomona High School Outreach Project (PHSOP), however, student writing consultants at Claremont McKenna College’s Center for Writing and Public Discourse (CWPD), return to that stressful time with Pomona High School (PHS) seniors.

The project, which pairs CMC students with PHS students to improve their college application essays and includes a photojournalism program in the spring, was initiated by former writing consultants Takako Mino CM ’11 and Anna Joseph CM ’13 in early 2010, shortly after the CWPD was established.

“Both Takako and Anna envisioned a way in which the CWPD could reach out and support the surrounding community,” said Christine Crockett, CWPD Associate Director and CMC literature professor.  

PHS became involved in the project through Mino’s connection with Eva Morales-Vargas, who organizes the school’s Advancement Via Individual Determination program, which, according to Crockett, “attracts high-achieving students who have the most potential to go to college, who are also typically the first in their families to go to college.”

The senior application essay program involves one-on-one discussions between CWPD writing consultants and PHS seniors about their personal statements and other college application essays. The consultants also answer questions about the college application process as a whole.

But the program goes beyond that, said writing consultant and veteran PHSOP volunteer Grace Mahan CM ’14. 

“While we do focus on improving their essays, our ultimate goal is to make them better writers in general,” Mahan said. “We also give them a glimpse of what it means to be a college student. When you’re in high school, college students seem so adult-like, and so for us to go and to talk with them about our college careers and their future collegiate goals really opens up their minds to the opportunities that are out there to them.”

Writing consultants visited PHS Oct. 26 and plan to return Nov. 16.

Through the photojournalism project, the writing consultants teach high school juniors a journalism curriculum with the goal of “identifying a community problem and writing about it, and also coming up with some possible solutions for it,” CWPD Program Coordinator Veronica Salas CM ’14 said.

Some of the issues that the students have tackled in the past are drug use, graffiti, unhealthy food, and litter.

Aside from completing the writing component, which is posted online through a school-sponsored WordPress account, the students learn how to incorporate photography into their articles under the supervision of several Pomona College photography professors.

At the end of the project, the PHS students take a tour of CMC and present their articles to their peers and CMC professors.

“What’s really important about this event is that these students live 10 minutes away from us and many don’t even know which colleges are in Claremont and have never been to campus,” Salas said.

“Many, if not most of the juniors that were involved in the spring come back [to the application essay program] as seniors in the fall, which allows us to cultivate rapport with the students, which is important because they’re so much more willing to open and expose themselves in their personal statements without feeling uncomfortable about it with us,” she added.

Currently, both programs only involve PHS, but Crockett and Salas both expressed a desire to work with other high schools in the Pomona Unified School District.

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