By Katie Hanson ’25
Jaela Alvarez ’23 walks through the doors of a local Claremont middle school every week. Alvarez isn’t there to coach or tutor—she’s there to mentor. The College Club Initiative, which she is leading this year through Scripps College’s Laspa Center for Leadership, helps young girls learn the ropes of college admissions and life, as well as get a better idea of the schools they hope to attend.
“I always find it very satisfying to encourage and empower young women, especially because I know how overwhelming it can be with the college process and not having anyone there to help you,” Alvarez says. “I just felt like this would be something that I would really enjoy, getting to know young students and helping them any way that I can.”
While leading the College Club Initiative is a big undertaking, Alvarez has years of experience with the Laspa Center to help guide her. After seeing a job posting online during her first year, Alvarez applied for a Scholar-in-Action position at the Laspa Center. Within a few weeks, she was assisting with programs centered on financial literacy, student outreach, and leadership opportunities.
Now in her third year, Alvarez remains a Scholar-in-Action, with a multitude of projects and accomplishments under her belt. She previously led the Read to Lead program, selecting a book about leadership and female empowerment often, for a community book club open to all Scripps students. Alvarez also helped register voters on campus in the lead-up to the 2020 general election and curate podcasts about gender inclusivity in the workplace for the Laspa Center’s Spotify playlist.
This year, Alvarez is joined by six other Scholars-in-Action, all with the same mission: to make leadership more inclusive. With the College Club Initiative, Alvarez hopes to make the college process less daunting to low-income students and students of color. The six-week program is catered toward eighth grade girls in the Claremont area. Originally under the purview of the Scripps College Academy, a pre-college program for first-generation students, the College Club Initiative is now part of the Laspa Center’s programming. Alvarez hopes the program will empower students to see their capabilities.
“We want to let them know that they’re not alone, and that they have these resources,” she says.
While starting college discussions in middle school may sound premature to some, Alvarez said it demystifies the process early on. Her goal is for students to see college as a goal within their reach.
Each week, Alvarez conducts presentations on different aspects of the college process and experience, including public versus private institutions, women’s colleges, standardized testing, and more. She also plans to bring in guest speakers to provide further insight. Alvarez’s lesson plans include time for worksheets, ice breakers, and interactive activities. She said she wants the space to feel collaborative and like a community.
Alvarez is most excited to discuss the concept of women’s colleges with the group. Having had a positive experience at Scripps, Alvarez hopes to share that with others.
“I want to get rid of all of those preconceived beliefs about women’s colleges, because I definitely had that when I first applied to Scripps,” Alvarez says. “Now that I’m here, I’m like, ‘This is amazing.’”