POMONA, Calif. – The Pomona Unified School District’s Pomona Peer Resources program encouraged positive living, promoted college and career goals and motivated 250 eighth-, ninth- and 10th-grade female students to be proactive in finding their own paths to success during the second annual Young Women’s Empowerment Conference on Dec. 5.

“Conferences like this are critical for all students, in particular women,” Pitzer College Professor and morning keynote speaker Roberta Espinoza explained to students. She also described what it was like growing up being told she was too poor to go to college and how she overcame those obstacles.

“This conference is an opportunity to learn, explore things and find out what your passions are,” she told the students. “It’s time to start believing in yourselves and be proactive in being successful.”

Held at the Village at Indian Hill Conference & Technology Center, the event included 30 workshops focusing on healthy minds, bodies and souls.

The healthy minds, bodies and souls workshops included such topics as “Women in STEM,” “Financial Literacy,” “College Access,” “Drug and Alcohol Safety,” “Learning to Love Yourself” and “Your Body and You,” among others. The healthy souls workshops included “Identifying Healthy Relationships,” “Dealing with Grief,” “Standing up to Bullying,” “Immigrant Youth Issues” and more. All workshops helped guide female youths to examine issues of equity, access and achievement.

Pomona Catholic High School students also participated.

“Some high school students don’t take full advantage of their education,” said Garey High School senior and peer counselor Sara Vidrio. “But after this event, they learn the importance of it and want to make a change. When you’re getting advice from someone your own age, they listen to you, and I like helping them avoid going down a bad path.”

Pomona Peer Resources (PPR) is part of a comprehensive (academic, social, emotional and personal) approach to peer intervention. Organized in April 1999, the action group draws from the rich 20-year peer intervention history at PUSD. PPR works with the District’s middle and high schools to provide more than 20 individual peer intervention programs, which include community-based activities that address the issues and needs of PUSD’s adolescents.

“The goal of this program is to ensure that our female students know what opportunities and options are available to them and what they need to do to achieve their goals,” said Karen Rogel, Pomona Peer Resources Coordinator-South at Garey High School. “We have grown tremendously in attendance since last year, and it’s our hope that the program continues to expand for the future success of Pomona Unified students.”

In addition to the numerous guest speakers, business owner Debra Martin, who has been on the Pomona City Council since 2012, delivered an inspiring lunch keynote, while musician, video blogger and YouTube personality Meghan Tonjes, who speaks about positive body image, closed the conference.

“I am very proud of the community support we have received in helping to strengthen and empower our female students as they work toward college and career,” said PUSD Superintendent Richard Martinez. “These young women have the ability to take control of their own lives regardless of circumstances and forge a pathway to success, and we are dedicated to helping them do that.”


CONFERENCE1: Pitzer College Professor Roberta Espinoza delivers the morning keynote during Pomona Unified’s second annual Young Women’s Empowerment Conference at the Village at Indian Hill Conference & Technology Center on Dec. 5.

CONFERENCE2: Approximately 250 eighth-, ninth- and 10th-grade female students attended the Young Women’s Empowerment Conference, which aimed to motivate students on getting college and career goals and finding paths suitable to them.