By Lauren Mar ’25
Clockwise from top left: Ellen Hu ’24, Raka Mukherjee ’25, and Jocelyn Chang ’23
In 1969, the first Asian American studies curricula were established at three California universities: University of California, Berkeley, San Francisco State University, and University of California, Los Angeles. During the civil rights movement, a push for affinity groups on college campuses spread throughout the state—and by the early 1970s, Scripps had established a new organization that would become known for its peer-to-peer support: the Asian American Sponsor Program (AASP).
Creating community for Scripps’ APIDA students
For Jocelyn Chang ’23, coming from a high school which was mostly comprised of Asian or White students to a predominately White institution (PWI) at Scripps was a “shocking transition.” However, in joining the AASP, current co-head Chang says, “I found a community where I was able to talk about APIDA (Asian, Pacific Islander, and Desi American) issues, share my experiences, listen to experiences, and feel connected.”
One of Scripps’ student-run clubs and organizations (known as CLORGs), AASP operates under the Office of Scripps Communities of Resources and Empowerment (SCORE) to promote sustained dialogue on Asian American issues and create an empowering network for Scripps students who identify as APIDA. The group’s structure is unique: First-year APIDA students are placed in a group with two mentors (the “sponsors” in the CLORG’s name) and several other first-year APIDA students. The format fosters deep connections and a strong support system on campus.
The journey to this level of support was not without its challenges. Due to a period of backlash against formal unity of underrepresented students, AASP only began to receive dedicated funding in 1990. The shift opened doors for an office space, work-study positions, and a part-time coordinator, helping to spark a period of Asian American activism and advocacy for support for APIDA students at The Claremont Colleges. Now, the AASP program is an active and integral part of college life at Scripps.
“It’s comforting to have mentors who can help guide you as well as other first-years who you are able to get to know,” says Chang. Raka Mukherjee ’25 echoes this sentiment. “AASP has been able to provide me with a community at Scripps,” she says. “It’s full of people I look up to and I know I can go to in a tough moment.”
AASP’s events, workshops, and mentorship-based sponsor program
AASP holds three monthly events: one large event, one snack break, and workshops. Some examples of a big monthly event from this year include the 5C APIDA mixer and an outing to Little Tokyo in downtown Los Angeles. At snack breaks, AASP members can stop by a location on Scripps’ campus to receive Asian treats and chat with other members. The workshops hosted by AASP center around discussion of APIDA-related issues; most recently, the CLORG hosted a workshop exploring cultural appropriation within the APIDA community.
AASP also extends its community beyond Scripps, uniting with the Asian American Mentor Program at Pomona College, the Asian Pacific American Coalition at Pitzer College, and Asian Pacific American Mentors at Claremont McKenna College for different events. The CLORGs’ sponsors also underwent a week-long training with the South Asian Mentorship Program, a consortium-wide group, in preparation for this school year. These collaborations help better support Scripps’ APIDA population and connect them to a broader group of students with shared identities across The Claremont Colleges.
One of the most important aspects of AASP is its emphasis on building connection between all members, not just first-years. Sponsors and sponsees alike benefit from the AASP community, the discussions, and experiences they share. There is a strong sense of legacy: Even for those members who choose to become sponsors after being a sponsee, they know that “once a sponsee, always a sponsee.”
“Prior to stepping foot in a classroom, I didn’t realize just how jarring being a student of color would be at a PWI,” says Ellen Hu ’24, a former sponsee and current sponsor. “AASP has provided me with a space to connect and build community with other APIDA-identifying students through engaging conversations about my racial identity that I wouldn’t otherwise have the opportunity to discuss.”
Chang, who has also followed a similar path as a sponsee, sponsor, and now a co-head, is likewise grateful for the ways AASP has helped her grow.
“As a co-head, I’ve become more aware of APIDA issues, and I’m able to bring people together to provide that safe space for others,” she says. “AASP has given me a second family. I can’t imagine my Scripps experience without it.”