Pitzer College hosted The Claremont Colleges EMERGE Welcome Dinner on September 21 for the newest students from the EMERGE Fellowship, a Houston-based nonprofit that helps underserved students get into, and thrive in, the country’s top colleges. In less than four years, the number of EMERGE alumni at The Claremont Colleges has grown from one student—Pitzer’s Carlos Perrett ’18—to 15 students.
“We’re building a village here,” said Perrett, who organized the dinner.
Today, there are 10 first-year students, one sophomore, three juniors and one senior at The Claremont Colleges. Of the EMERGE scholars, 87 percent are first-generation college students and 93 percent are from low-income families, according to Perrett, who also works in Pitzer’s Office of Admission.
“I’m really excited to be here,” said Whitney Gouché, EMERGE’s director of scholar initiatives and strategic partnerships who flew out from Houston for the event. “This is a good model of what we want to see across all of our campuses that have large EMERGE populations.”
Pitzer’s Office of Admission visits community-based organizations (CBOs) like EMERGE as part of its efforts to increase college access for underrepresented students across the country. The Office of Admission also hosts high school students from EMERGE and other CBOs on Pitzer’s campus so they can get a sense of college life firsthand.
Pitzer’s Associate of Sociology Roberta Espinoza, who is an expert on college access, gave the keynote address at the welcome dinner, sharing her story about being a first-generation college student at neighboring Pomona College.
“My bottom line to everybody in the room is: We don’t do it alone,” Espinoza said. “We need connection to a variety of different institutional aids and agents. So my challenge to all of you this evening is to look for individuals who can guide you.”
When Perrett arrived at Pitzer in 2014, he quickly immersed himself in college life, working for the Office of Admission, joining Student Senate, participating in a study-tour of Ecuador during his first year. But he also kept in touch with EMERGE participants in Houston, sending Polaroids of his life at Pitzer—here he is studying, here is giving a campus tour, here he is holding a first-year seminar syllabus—so other first-generation students from low-income neighborhoods could picture themselves at college.
Three years after he enrolled at Pitzer, Perrett looked around a room filled with EMERGE graduates and 5C professors and administrators, who he invited to not only welcome the students to college, but support them throughout their educational journey and “guide them toward success,” he said.