Twenty rising sophomores are spending the summer completing career-related experiences through First-Year Forward, a program run by Hamilton’s Career Center. At the beginning of the year these students committed to regular group meetings, career counseling session, and skill-building assignments. Their goals are to develop skills in communication, networking and interviewing, and to assess their own strengths and career interests. Internships this summer will help them to define and build toward career goals.
As a high school student, Andres Aguilar ’19 participated in the Pomona College Academy for Youth Success (PAYS), an intensive summer program that prepares underrepresented students for admission to selective colleges. Now, after his first year at Hamilton, through the First Year Forward program, he is returning to PAYS to work as a trainer, helping students to succeed in the same way he has succeeded. His plans don’t stop there, either; Aguilar has big goals for helping even more high school students in the future.
Hometown: San Bernardino, Calif.
High School: Arroyo Valley High School
PAYS, run by Pomona College in Claremont, Calif., is a four-week residential program that high school students participate in for the summers preceding their sophomore through senior years. The program uses courses, workshops and projects to prepare students for admission to selective colleges and universities, such as Hamilton. The program doesn’t only want students to get accepted, either; it cultivates critical thinking skills and a supportive community that will help participants be successful through college and beyond.
For Aguilar, his internship is a great opportunity to be on the other side of the program. He is taking on a couple of roles at PAYS this summer. With some of his time, he is helping with the behind-the-scenes administrative work, including managing enrollment, communications with students, and staff paperwork. He is also doing a lot of hands-on work that puts his leadership skills to use. Through the beginning of the summer, he has led staff training sessions. When the PAYS courses start, he will be co-teaching leadership workshops for the students.
Through his work, he is gaining a behind-the-scenes understanding of how a program like PAYS works. This will help him to work toward a long-term goal of starting a similar program at Hamilton. Since becoming a Hamilton student, Aguilar says he “saw a need for a program like this at Hamilton.” He envisions a program that will target underrepresented high school students in the Oneida County area and prepare them for academic success in college.
Aguilar believes that a program like PAYS provides not only academic training, but personal support that is essential to growth and success. He explained that his own experience in PAYS fostered close, supportive relationships with students he could relate to. “Because of these relationships,” he said, “I’ve been able to discover myself and have a community.” That community is crucial for providing a sense of support and confidence. Aguilar hopes that in the future a new program will be able to provide that support to a whole new group of students around Hamilton.