Cal Poly Pomona’s community engagement efforts have helped the Pomona Unified School District ring up a prestigious Golden Bell Award from the California School Boards Association.
Numerous activities and programs initiated by the university and through the Center for Community Engagement played a part in determining the award, including service-learning courses and volunteer opportunities at district schools, robotics competitions held by the College of Education & Integrative Studies and the College of Engineering, after-school tutoring by Cal Poly Pomona students and Pomona Beautification Day.
The Golden Bell Award recognizes outstanding programs and practices in California schools, especially distinctive education programs that adapt to the changing needs of students.
“This sends the message that Cal Poly Pomona does care. It is involved,” says Megan Samaniego, volunteer coordinator at the Center for Community Engagement. “Sometimes the impact that Cal Poly Pomona is making in the community is not always seen, but we as a university are deeply involved in what the community is trying to accomplish.”
The Pomona Unified School District was notified of the award in the Community Schools Through Partnerships and Collaboration category on Oct. 13. The school district, which earned two Golden Bell Awards in 2014, has 26 formal partnerships with higher-education institutions and community organizations.
“When community resources connect, students’ lives are changed,” says Richard Martinez, superintendent of the Pomona Unified School District. “This has given the community a spirt of value, pride and hope.”
The university has widened its impact in the district. Cal Poly Pomona and the school district signed a groundbreaking agreement last year, guaranteeing admission to qualified PUSD students for select majors. Up to 5 percent of first-time freshmen enrolled each year at the university hail from the Pomona district.
More than a decade ago, the school district became the hub for community services initiated through a grass-roots revitalization effort. The Pomona Youth and Master Family Plan was spurred by a deadly 2005 shooting of a police officer that galvanized the community. The plan evolved into Pomona’s Promise three years ago.
Cal Poly Pomona has been involved since the inception of the five-pronged program that encompasses community engagement, educational outreach efforts, crime prevention and neighborhood safety, health education for residents and economic development in the city.
Samaniego, who is also a resident of Pomona, is the chair of Pomona’s Promise Community Engagement Board that seeks to keep residents informed of initiatives and spur involvement. She says that other strategic partners on campus work with non-profit organizations and community groups that are aligned with the goals of Pomona’s Promise.
“It’s unique that we have reciprocal relationships that are mutually beneficial for both parties,” Samaniego says. “For our students, it’s learn by doing something meaningful in the community. It’s learn by doing something good. The award really is for everyone.”
The Golden Bell Award will be presented to the school district at a ceremony on Dec. 3 in San Francisco.