Wielding paintbrushes, brooms and gardening tools, around 430 volunteers representing Cal Poly Pomona took to Pomona city streets Saturday to help spruce up the community.
They pulled weeds, picked up trash and planted flowers during the city’s 10th annual Pomona Beautification Day.
This marks the fifth year the university, through its Center for Community Engagement, has participated in the event.
“It’s by far our largest turn out of students,” said Megan Samaniego, volunteer coordinator for the Center of Community Engagement’s Bronco Volunteer program and chairwoman of the Pomona’s Promise Community Engagement Board. “This year we partnered with the Alumni Association. And we had great support from our student clubs. Overall, we were just thrilled.”
Samaniego, who lives in Pomona and sits on the Pomona Beautification Day Committee, said approximately 2,500 volunteers from the Pomona Unified School District, local universities and various community groups fanned out at more than 60 sites.
Every year, the number of volunteers increases for the event, including among the Cal Poly Pomona students, Samaniego said. While this is the largest effort of the year, the Center for Community Engagement has several smaller “splash events” that provide students, staff and faculty other opportunities to get involved.
“This generation really does want to make an impact and do things to move society forward,” she said. “It promotes community pride and gets everyone together to do positive work.”
University President Soraya M. Coley spoke briefly at the kick-off ceremony, and after participants snacked on doughnuts, coffee, and parfaits and did a little dance warm up, they headed out to the sites.
At the Ganesha Park pool on White Avenue, scores of students wearing Cal Poly Pomona T-shirts lined up on both sides of a metal gate and partnered to repaint its sections.
Malak Habbak, a fourth-year communications student who is in the Kellogg Honors College, worked with another participant to tear paper so that she could line the bottom of the fence before painting. Habbak said it was her second year participating in Pomona Beautification Day. The Kellogg Honors College requires students to earn civic engagement credits.
“That is the motivation initially, but once you’re here, you feel the spirit,” she said. “It’s really a good feeling of building up the city.”
At the Palm Lake Golf Course on West Phillips Boulevard, a group of Cal Poly Pomona alumni and students dug out golf balls stuck in the dirt and cleared piles of palm fronds. John Poli, president of the Cal Poly Pomona Alumni Association, said more than 80 alumni signed up to participate in the event this year. The opportunity to participate in the event and help further solidify the partnership between the university and the city was a positive, said Poli, who graduated in 1993 with a political science degree.
“Cal Poly Pomona and the city of Pomona are part of the same community,” he said. “As alumni, giving back to the university is such a great experience, and participating in this event connects all of us with the community at large.”
Students also went to work at Ebell Museum, a historic site on Garey Avenue that was built in 1910 and was home to the Pomona Ebell Club, the oldest women’s organization in Pomona.
Shades of Queens, a support group for women of color at Cal Poly Pomona, was one of several student organizations that helped clean up the inside and outside of the building. Around 18 members of the group came out to participate in Pomona Beautification Day.
Club President Erica Brown, a fourth-year sociology student, said her organization values community service.
“To be able to come out in unity and focus on one goal and feel that connection, it makes you feel like in the area you live in, everybody cares,” she said.
Shannon Jones, a third-year nutritional science student and also a member of Shades of Queens, said she has participated in the event for three years. Jones, who worked for the Center for Community Engagement for two years, said the level of enthusiasm and interest in the event has really grown.
“When you serve, it doesn’t matter what task you are given, as long as you commit to it,” she said. “People need your help.”
Several Cal Poly Pomona students also volunteered at Helping Hands Caring Hearts on Monterey Avenue, a ministry dedicated to providing food, pet food and clothing to homeless men, women and children in the city.
They washed tables and chairs, helped organize supplies, sorted and hung donated clothes and cleaned out the food pantry.
“We have always had great volunteers from Cal Poly Pomona,” said Barbara Wallace, the program’s director. “The students are always gung ho. They are self-motivated.”