Two dozen high school students got a taste of leadership and a sense of what it takes to succeed in the professional world, thanks to a Cal Poly Pomona liberal studies class focused on contemporary issues in public education.
A number of student body government students from Santana High, a continuation school in La Puente, had asked for the conference, because they wanted a program similar to what’s offered at comprehensive high schools, says Leonardo Martinez, a Cal Poly Pomona alumnus and an instructional assistant at Santana.
“The goal of the leadership conference is to give our students the skills they need so that they can utilize them in the real world after they graduate,” he says. “They have a passion to strive for something better, and it kind of gives them that hope.”
The liberal studies class uses service learning at Santana High to instruct the Cal Poly Pomona students on the role of civic engagement in democracy.
The liberal studies students helped plan and organize the event, which included guest speakers on motivation, leadership and discussions on preparing to apply and interview for jobs. They also led a team-building exercise in which participants had to compete to build the tallest tower using nothing but newspaper and masking tape in less than 30 minutes.
Most of the Cal Poly Pomona students have had positive experiences with the educational system, but the course allows them to interact with and help youths who haven’t had that kind of success, says Liberal Studies Professor Christina Chavez-Reyes.
“Just because you succeed doesn’t mean that you don’t give back,” she says. “They begin to see some of the leadership skills they have are useful to others and extend them to those in their own communities.”
Laura Valadez, a liberal studies student who is graduating this month, says she appreciated how happy the Santana students were to work with each other and the Cal Poly Pomona students.
“I’ve learned that it’s really rewarding to help others,” Valadez adds. “I wish I had done this type of work back in high school.”