Coast to Coast: Journey from Uniformity to Diversity

By Sophia Augustine ‘23

Realizing the uniformity of my predominantly white, suburban town in the middle of Northern New Jersey (91% white, 5.47% Hispanic or Latinx, and 1.84% Asian) was quite an infuriating and frustrating experience. Living in Mendham New Jersey for my entire life, with the exception of my family’s brief move to Southern California for a year, has provided me with immense privilege but not nearly as much diversity, worldly education and awareness as I would have liked to have growing up, not even a little bit.

All my spiblings!

Being one of three Hispanic people (and the only Mexican-American) in my graduating senior class at Mendham High School, I was determined to be extremely meticulous in choosing my college and, more importantly, home for the next four years. In the fall of my senior year of high school when I was accepted to Pomona’s fly-in program for underrepresented students, POP (Perspectives on Pomona), I was absolutely elated and relieved, to be perfectly honest. I knew the chances of being admitted to Pomona College were slim to none, but this incredible acceptance really boosted my confidence and awareness and, unquestionably, humbled me when I actually flew out and met the other 50 or 60 POP attendees (meeting three of my best friends at Pomona currently during this exact Fall POP actually).

I had no idea, not a single clue, what Pomona College was my entire high school career. Only one other person from my town has ever gone to Pomona, and he was six years older than me, so I never knew him. I was absolutely stunned and became more and more intrigued as I continued to do my individual research on Pomona College during the months after attending POP. If I am being totally honest, which I am on this blog, I was not sure if Pomona was the school for me … at first.

Sophia and friends from Fall POP on quad
Fall POP friends

Coming from across the country, I found Southern California to be a complete culture shock and an utterly opposite world from the space I was so used to. I was a scared, unaware, sheltered and nervous senior who would later realize, after extensive research and attending spring POP after being admitted to the College, that Pomona was in fact everything I had been desperately searching for in my life that I was missing in Mendham: inclusion, diversity, and, most importantly, a voice. I finally had peers who could really teach me important things, and I finally had professors who truly cared about their work, fields of research and, most significantly, the lives and well-being of their students. There was finally representation of so many different minority groups that I was NEVER exposed to in my first 18 years of life. I am not going to exaggerate when I say this: it was a HUGE wake-up call for me. I realized how TINY my bubble of a world was and how TINY my knowledge of significant issues of the world was as well. Every single person that I have had the privilege to speak with and converse with at Pomona College has taught me something new. As I continue to educate myself and others and constantly learn, I can feel myself getting more and more excited and connected to Pomona and the world around me. After just a year at this incredible institution, I can 100% genuinely say my life has been transformed, in many more ways than just one.

Now this is not a post preaching Pomona as the greatest college in the country but for me, growing up as a Mexican-American female in an incredibly privileged, white-dominated suburb, Pomona has been the most eye-opening and amazing experience of my entire life where I have blossomed (even in my first year, first semester, first DAY even) into the woman I want to become and will constantly strive. So whatever school makes you feel like this, is the place for you.

Pomona is not just another college experience. It is a diverse, secure community where passions are unearthed, love is boundless and learning is a way of life.