Scholars-in-Action Julia Brock ’22 and Jaela Alvarez ’23 Power Laspa Center for Leadership Programming

By Ella Murdock Gardner ’22

Since its inception in 2015, the Laspa Center for Leadership has sought to advance gender equity through creating educational programming, partnering with local and national organizations, and providing resources and tools for students to identify and hone their leadership skills. This year, seven Scripps students will support the Laspa Center’s mission as resident “Scholars-in-Action.”

The Scholars-in-Action are the “student powerhouses of the whole operation,” as Laspa Center Assistant Director Gretchen Maldonado puts it. Whether screening leadership books and writing discussion questions for the “Read to Lead” book club or hosting Scripps’ popular financial literacy workshops, the Scholars-in-Action play a crucial role in defining the Laspa Center’s goals and implementing programming for each semester.

“We rely on our Scholars to be our ambassadors to the student body,” Maldonado says. “They keep our programming grounded in what Scripps students actually want and need out of a leadership center.”

Five of the Scholars are joining the team for the first time, but Julia Brock ’22 and Jaela Alvarez ’23 have worked for the Laspa Center for the past two years. Both cited the Laspa Center’s unique focus on empowering female leaders as the reason they initially applied. “I had never seen anything like it, an organization entirely dedicated to helping women build their leadership skills and explore different opportunities,” says Alvarez. “As a woman and a person of color—two groups disproportionately underrepresented in leadership positions—I knew I wanted to be a Scholar-in-Action.”

Alvarez applied for the position before she even arrived on campus for her first year, but Brock joined the team as a sophomore after realizing the impact that leadership skills can have both in and out of the classroom. “When I was in high school, my idea of a leader was someone who is very bold and loud, someone who takes up a lot of space,” Brock says. “Taking classes at Scripps and working with the other Scholars-in-Action has opened my eyes to the fact that leadership is not one-size-fits-all; there are actually many different leadership styles.”

This semester, Alvarez is heading the “College Club” initiative, a program designed to start middle school girls in the Claremont area on the path to higher education. “Many of the girls we’ll work with are low income or first-generation students,” says Alvarez. “Hopefully, by providing mentorship and resources early on, we can demystify the college application process.”

The team is also preparing to continue the civic engagement initiatives they developed remotely last year. “We set up a website with information about how to vote in different states, how to volunteer to be a poll worker, and why campaigning and working at the polls is a great way to give back to your community,” Brock says. “We also have an ongoing partnership with TurboVote, so students could follow a Scripps College affiliated link and register to vote online very quickly and easily.” Alongside voter registration drives and informational campaigns, the Laspa Center is planning programming designed to encourage women, women of color, and nonbinary people to run for office.

Brock and Alvarez plan to make waves after graduation as well. Brock intends to leverage the communication skills she’s built at the Laspa Center to strengthen all her future workplace relationships. And as an environmental analysis major with a focus on policy, Alvarez hopes to continue her studies at law school. “There are lots of ways that climate change and ecological warfare are negatively impacting minorities and communities of color, and by going into law, I want to be able to impactfully advocate for those people,” she says.