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Draper Center: Forging a Link Between the College and Community

"The mission of Pomona College is to train our leaders of the future, which makes the College the ideal partner for the Draper Center," --Ranney Draper '60

"The mission of Pomona College is to train our leaders of the future, which makes the College the ideal partner for the Draper Center," --Ranney Draper '60

From left to right: Sam Lewis '11, Maria Tucker, director of the Draper Center, Tomas Summers Sandoval, faculty coordinator and assistant professor of history and Chicano/a and Latino/a studies

From left to right: Sam Lewis '11, Maria Tucker, director of the Draper Center, Tomas Summers Sandoval, faculty coordinator and assistant professor of history and Chicano/a and Latino/a studies

Ranney Draper’s two greatest passions in life--philanthropy and Pomona College—stretch back to his parents, Ranney and Virginia, both of whom are Pomona alumni.

“I learned the importance of giving back to our community from them,” says Draper ’60. “They were leaders of their community. And I think I learned it at Pomona, too. Giving back is a part of our culture there. After all, the words are etched on our campus gates.”

Reminiscing during a phone call from his home in Sun Valley, Idaho, Draper is looking at a photograph of his father on the wall as he speaks. “I think about him. I think of how proud he would be of the Center.”

That would be the Draper Center for Community Partnerships, which was dedicated at Pomona in October 2009. Ranney Draper, his wife, Priscilla, and the Draper Family Foundation provided a $5.5 million gift for the Center’s programs and operations.

The Draper Center’s primary mission: to support educational and community outreach.

The Center, located on the second floor of the Smith Campus Center, expands on earlier outreach programs, which were heavily supported by the Draper family’s financial gifts starting in 1993. Those included a $1 million endowment for what began as the Office of Community Programs.

“I think it is our responsibility, with the resources and talent we have at Pomona College, to do this kind of work,” says Draper, a member of the Board of Trustees since 1984.

The work is accomplished through a variety of programs. Students and staff at Pomona teach, tutor and mentor young people of all ages. They also volunteer at nonprofits to work with the homeless, hungry and other people in need. In addition, Pomona’s professors teach community-based courses and collaborate with area schools.

The Draper Center’s flagship program is the Pomona Academy for Youth Success (PAYS), a college-prep summer program for local high school students. PAYS targets low-income students and those who will be the first in their families to attend college. (See the accompanying article on the next page.)

The local community reaps dramatic benefits from all these efforts, but Pomona students also are affected, says Maria Tucker, director of the Draper Center. “They understand the social justice issues right here in our community, connecting what they learn in the classroom to the people with whom they interact,” she notes. “It’s about Pomona students learning to live a life of social responsibility.”

Bridgette Depay ’12, who grew up in New York City, had never been to California when she arrived at Pomona College as a first-year student. She didn’t know much about Pomona’s surrounding communities, so she figured that doing volunteer work would be a great way to find out.

“My work through the Draper Center made me feel more connected to this community,” says Depay, now a junior.

In both her freshman and sophomore years, she participated in Alternabreak, a week-long program in which Pomona students participate in off-campus community service projects during Spring Break, volunteering with organizations that address such issues as homelessness and environmental justice. Draper Center student coordinators lead trips to San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Diego. As a freshman, Depay went to Los Angeles, where the students helped set up gardens in low-income neighborhoods and worked with community members in growing their own produce.

The experience had a powerful effect on Depay, who says she grew up in a low-income neighborhood herself. “It helped me to connect things that I was learning at Pomona to my environment back home.”

Another Pomona student, Sam Lewis ’11, has worked at the Draper Center since his first year and has developed an internship program with local youth to address food-justice issues. “You need to live up to your politics and beliefs, and this is one way for me to address my beliefs,” says the Pomona senior.

The Draper family has given very generously to the College over the years, including establishing the Draper Family Scholarship, helping expand Pomona’s Latin American Studies program, commissioning public art (including a notable sculpture by Norm Hines ’61), and, in 2004, providing the gift for the Draper Courtyard between the Lincoln and Edmunds buildings.

Draper has high hopes for the future of the Center that bears his family’s name, pointing out--fervently--that there is much more that could be done.

“The mission of Pomona College is to train our leaders of the future, which makes the College the ideal partner for the Draper Center,” he says. “This will be a shining example in the country of what a small campus can and should do to help its community.”

Editor's note: The article was originally published in our Fall 2010 Pomona College Campaign Journal, which is a newsletter updating the Pomona College community on campaign progress. For more information, please visit our campaign website.