R.I.S.E. Raises Minority Students' Interest in Cal Poly Pomona


R.I.S.E. Raises Minority Students' Interest in Cal Poly Pomona
Several students who participated in R.I.S.E. pose in front of the CLA building.

When Matthew Bennett got his first e-mail last summer from Tameka Alexander, who works in the Office of Admissions and Outreach, he didn't think to respond.

The recent Gardena High School graduate was deciding at the time where he wanted to go to college. Cal Poly Pomona was on his list, but he hadn't made a decision.

Unswayed by Bennett's lack of response, Alexander kept writing and eventually began to call until she got his attention. She convinced him to participate in the week-long Residential Intensive Summer Education Program (R.I.S.E.), which is designed to recruit and retain underrepresented students.

She told him there were no strings attached. Just come see what the university has to offer and then make a decision.

“When my parents dropped me off I didn't know anyone, and it was scary,” Bennett recalls.

However, those jitters quickly melted away. Bennett, who was one of 47 others recruited to participate in R.I.S.E. in August 2006, got a comprehensive look at what life would be like at Cal Poly Pomona.

“It helped me close the deal,” Bennett says. “I liked it a lot. I learned there was a big difference from high school. You had to be more responsible.”

The recruits lived in the residence halls and took part in a number of activities such as small group tours, test-taking strategies, time-management skills, one-on-one advising sessions, field trips, and educational seminars. They also participated in various workshops about career opportunities, diversity and financial aid, Alexander says.

“R.I.S.E. is a wonderful, yet rigorous academic residential program for high school students,” says Alexander, who is the R.I.S.E. program coordinator.  ”It seeks to cultivate and prepare students to engage actively in their academics in order to meet the challenges of a large university. This year's programwas very successful.”

Forty of the 48 recruits were recent high school graduates; the remaining eight are now high school seniors. After participating in R.I.S.E., all 40 enrolled at Cal Poly Pomona.

“I was looking all around at other universities,” says freshman Gabriella Macklin. “I wasn't going to go to Cal Poly Pomona until R.I.S.E. It was so much fun.”

The R.I.S.E. program seemed to have a significant impact on the students who participated.

“I know that I, along with the other participants, was really lucky to be able to have access to this campus, its resources, and facilities, as well as important staff members,” says Mercey Daramola, a senior at King Drew Medical Magnet High School. “The program really gave me the motivation to love Cal Poly Pomona, as well as to do my best to succeed and fulfill high expectations.”  

The recruits were identified in a number of ways. Some had applied at Cal Poly Pomona and were accepted already, but had not made a commitment. Others were found by working directly with churches and high schools, Alexander says.

Parents, teachers and church community leaders were appreciative of the program and the many opportunities it provided to them and their students, she says.

“I thought R.I.S.E. was excellent,” says Jo'Kena Scott, youth administrator for Shield of Faith Christian Center in Pomona. “The part that made the most impact was the information on cultural heritage. I thought it was priceless. R.I.S.E. gave our students hope and let them know that they can be educated and successful. The program also brought focus to career options.”

R.I.S.E. is designed to support students throughout their time at Cal Poly Pomona. There are social and academic events throughout the year. This past cohort was the third at Cal Poly Pomona so there are older students who are also actively involved.

During his first quarter, Bennett developed solid footing at the university. He is majoring in landscape architecture; lives and works on campus; plans to run track; enjoys his classes; and found a support network among people he met through R.I.S.E.

“We have a connection now,” the 18-year-old freshman says. “We support and look out for each other.”

For more information visit: http://www.dsa.cpp.edu/admissions/rise.asp