School Profile: Pomona College

Hope for Housing

Hope for Housing (courtesy of Pomona College)

Pomona College alumni lend financial support to undergraduate interns

By EMMA PENROD, Contributing Writer

Not everyone in college has their career path figured out.

That’s where Pomona, a small but prestigious liberal arts school, gives students an advantage. The college, about an hour from Los Angeles, is home to two undergraduate internship programs, both of which are funded almost entirely by donations.

The funds’ primary purpose is to place students in internships they might otherwise not be able to afford. Pomona itself, rather than the employers, pays participating students an average of $9 an hour for their efforts.

“A lot of students find that part of why they don’t know what they want to do is because they don’t know what is out there,” said Iris Gardner, internship coordinator at Pomona College. Gardner believes the work experience, combined with workshops, offers students a chance to test the waters in a field of interest and explore long-term career paths. “Just by knowing what is out there, they learn that jobs aren’t scary. I think that is what sets us apart from other programs, and the fact that we are able to pay students to get there is exciting as well,” she said.

Pomona College alumni understand and appreciate the value internships add to an education; so much so that in recent years, they have become frequent contributors to the school’s undergraduate internship programs.

In 1976, the college founded the first of its two internship programs, the Pomona College Internship Program. Since then, this program has offered funding and career exploration services to qualified students interested in working in the greater Los Angeles area during the academic school year.

An application process selects 50-80 students for the program each semester, according to Gardner. During that process, students also attend three career exploration workshops and receive instruction on how to look and apply for internships.

Once accepted, students work an average of 60 hours for one of more than 100 possible employers. Participants can work in a variety of fields during their internship experience. About 17 percent of last year’s interns worked in nonprofit or social service-related industries.

Additional funding for internships is available to Pomona students through the college’s new summer internship program, designed to offer more flexibility and additional work experience to students confident in their career choice. In the summer program, students are required to find their own internship before applying for the college’s support.

Last summer — the program’s first season of operation — eight students participated, with each receiving $4,000-$5,000 in financial aid. Although Gardner predicts there will be more than 100 applications this year, she only has enough funding for 14 summer interns.

Rose Green, a senior at Pomona College who designed her own major in nonprofit organizational and economic development, received funding and training through both programs while working for the Hope through Housing Foundation. The nonprofit organization provides after school, pre-school and senior services to those living in disadvantaged communities.

Inspired after a professor introduced her to the organization, she spent the last year raising funds for Hope through Housing as a grant writer and researcher. Green wanted to experience full-time work before she graduated but because of a hiring freeze, the foundation was unable to pay her. So she wrote up a budget and applied to Pomona’s new summer internship program. As one of eight students accepted into the program’s inaugural season, she received $4,590.

If not for the new program, Green wouldn’t have been able to continue working there. “At a place like Pomona, where you have a lot of wealthy students, other students are able to get unpaid or even paid internships through [family] connections,” Green said. “Students who are on a scholarship like me don’t have as many opportunities.”

Thanks to the alumni who made her internship possible, Green has not only experienced personal growth, but also developed an impressive resume. “It’s important to understand what working is really like and what you want to do with your life,” she said. “This [internship] is one of the strongest parts of my resume.”

– Anne Kostuchik contributed to this article

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