By Carly Owens
Ethnic and women’s studies Professor Nancy Quinones has a vision: helping students to think of themselves as a resource for other students.
For her Contemporary Chicano Issues course last spring, Cal Poly Pomona students collaborated with students from Ganesha High in Pomona to create children’s books focused on a piece of advice they wished someone had told them when they were younger.
One book, titled “The Colors of the Rainbow,” follows an Afro-Latino student as he tries to find a peer group at his new school. The black students tell him he’s Hispanic, and the Hispanic students consider him black. Eventually, he befriends a Muslim-American.
“The idea was that we need to embrace our diversity of the Latino community, and the students wished someone had told them that,” Quinones says.
Another book, titled “On Track to School,” had a train theme, showing that education is a ticket to the next stage in life.
In “Ezekiel y Sergio,” two friends take different paths after high school: One goes straight to college, the other straight to work. The book examines what these two paths look like and how their lives diverged.
The idea for the class was born out of Quinones’ own experience in Nashville as a first-generation college student — one of four “girls of color” at the school. In assigning the children’s book project to her class, she gives students a chance to pay it forward by guiding students even younger than themselves.
The Cal Poly Pomona and Ganesha students met once a week and discussed various collegiate themes, including access to education, being a first-generation student, prioritizing education over work, and acceptance of diversity. In all, the class wrote and hand-illustrated five books.
“The student discussions were phenomenal,” Quinones says. “They made the discovery that many of them share the same fears. It was enlightening to them and awoke many students to say, ‘I can do this.’ They’re now motivated to talk to family members and people in their neighborhood about college.”
Quinones hopes that the student-created books can be put on display and that some will be further refined and perhaps even published at some point.
Spring 2016 was the first time the class had been given the service-learning designation through the Center for Community Engagement, and it’s something that Quinones wants to continue.
“We got a lot of positive feedback,” she says. “The students who took this class became more conscious of their environment. They walked away thinking, ‘I’m a resource.’”