Published: Fall 2009 in College News

Advocates for the Liberal Arts

Student ambassadors support at-risk teens in their quest for college

Now in its fifth year, the Liberal Arts Ambassador Program sends 22 Westmont students to junior and senior high schools to explain the unique opportunities available through a liberal arts education. The Gaede Institute for the Liberal Arts launched this effort to inform young adults of their options for college and to equip them to be more engaged and successful in school. It also assists the ambassadors themselves; many come from under-represented groups, and some are first-generation college students.

“By giving ambassadors a supportive community, a deep understanding of what their education is all about, and ways to serve Westmont and the wider community, we’re moving young men and women who might feel on the margins right to the heart of Westmont,” says Chris Hoeckley, director of the Gaede Institute. Ambassadors take a two-unit course and tutor and advise students in local schools to help them prepare for college.

Support from the Foundation for Independent Higher Education, Montecito Bank & Trust, Hutton Foundation, Brown Family Foundation, and several generous friends ends this year, and the college is seeking new funding for the program that effectively helps under-served students both at Westmont and at local schools.

Emalie Diaz ’11 (center), a history major from Truckee, Calif., is an ambassador at Cesar Chavez Charter School in Santa Barbara. The students in her class made a timeline of their lives, and some listed attending Westmont. “They now see me as someone like them who made it to college,” Diaz says. “I think that’s success.”

Evelyn Martin ’11 (far left), a political science major from San Mateo, Calif., works with students at Santa Barbara High School. A first-generation college student herself, Martin tells students the liberal arts educates the whole person. “I have experienced the advantage of the interconnectedness of the liberal arts,” she says. “Through me, many students have become more interested in school and have considered going to college — a concept previously foreign to them.”

Sabrina Dangc ’11 (right), a double major in mathematics and economics and business from Redding, Calif., became an ambassador to give back to the community. “My high school adviser was from College OPTIONS, a similar program that helps students,” says Dangc. “Having someone encourage and guide me through the stressful application process was invaluable, and I wanted to be that person for other students.”

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