Making an Impact: New Program Connects First-Year Students with Community

CLAREMONT, California - September 6, 2018

This August, a week before nearly 900 students were scheduled to move in to the residence halls, more than 40 first-year students boarded buses on campus before dawn. They were headed to Los Angeles and the Inland Valley—bound to one of four nonprofit organizations—to participate in the inaugural launch of Scripps’ Impacting, Partnering, and Changing Together (IMPaCT) program.

Over the course of two days brimming with activities, tours, and seminars, Scripps students and faculty learned how four L.A. nonprofits—artworxLA, Heal the Bay, Huerta del Valle, and LA Makerspace—transform communities through STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math).

Students who visited Heal the Bay, an environmental nonprofit dedicated to making the coastal waters and watersheds of Greater Los Angeles safe, healthy, and clean, learned about Southern California’s water resources and coastal areas.

“Students learned about community efforts to restore freshwater and saltwater wetlands and the environmental importance of those areas that often get very little notice,” says Pritzker Family Foundation Professor of Biology Marion Preest, who served as an IMPaCT faculty liaison. “They learned about where the precious water we rely on in Southern California comes from and, of equal importance, where it goes after we use it. We also did a mini beach cleanup, and it was eye opening to see how much rubbish of various kinds we picked up in just 30 minutes!”

President Lara Tiedens developed the program after receiving a Mellon Foundation Presidential grant in May 2017. The goal of IMPaCT—facilitated by the Laspa Center for Leadership—is to foster community among incoming students and connect them with social impact initiatives in the Los Angeles region.

For Serina Montero ’22, who visited local community farm and advocacy organization Huerta del Valle, the program did all that and more.

“I’ve been [in Claremont] for a week, and I already feel connected to the Inland Valley and to the people who live and work here,” says Montero, who planted trees, cleared debris, and hauled timber at the farm. “It was really profound to do that kind of back-breaking labor, and then to be reminded that many people do that type of work every day.”

Mya Stark, the director of MakerspaceLA, wanted to impart to Scripps students how the type of problem solving her organization teaches to youth in Los Angeles through tech is also beneficial for young leaders.

“My goal was to introduce Scripps students to the ‘maker identity,’ which is all about having the confidence to try and fail,” says Stark. “A leader is difficult to be and difficult to teach, but ‘maker learning’ promotes the skills that help leaders grow. Tinkering is iterative learning, where we learn from our past mistakes and improve our performance.”

As for IMPaCT’s lasting effects, Montero’s cohort plans to continue working with Huerta del Valle beyond the program’s end. “We all felt a connection to Huerta, and we definitely connected with each other,” she reflects.