Interview with Reverend Dr. Mark McReynolds, Director of A Rocha USA’s SoCal Project
by Laura Vessey and Hannah Gillespie
Q: What is Pomona Hope?
A: Pomona Hope is a Christian ministry that is focused on after school enrichment for students grades 2-8. Pomona Hope’s after school and summer enrichment programs serve mostly Hispanic families from low-income areas in Pomona
Kids do homework, have gym time, a snack or meal, and an instructional workshop. Workshop topics vary, but there is always one Bible study workshop during the week. Mentors and volunteers are often high school graduates, college students, and adults from the area.
Pomona Hope also has a parenting group for student’s parents. It also runs the Center Street Community Garden across the street.
Q: What is A Rocha’s role?
A: SoCal A Rocha has an office at Pomona Hope, and it is our Urban Center. A Wild Center is being developed at a local Christian camp in the nearby mountains. The Wild Center will provide an additional opportunity for children to get outside and learn about God and nature.
Every Monday, I teach an environmental education workshop to each of the three age groups of kids. We have covered many topics, built a weather station, and put up bird boxes and a bird feeder.
Last year’s topic was habitat. This school year, the focus is on animals. As the first animal, I brought my cat and the following week, I brought a cat skeleton.
Conservation and Christian values are intermixed with the instruction. This school year, I will also lead one group in Bible study on Wednesday afternoons. Genesis has much to say about creation care.
Q: What are some of the successes and impacts of Pomona Hope?
A: Generally speaking these kids have not had a lot of opportunities to get out of the city. I discovered the students weren’t familiar with the geography outside their city, including the huge mountain range that looks over the Pomona Valley.
To Love Your Place and God’s creation, I think you must be geographically familiar. In our lessons, we worked on finding kids’ houses on a map, identified the cities around Pomona, and named the local mountains and creek.
I gave them all an active test of the information where they would run towards the colored line corresponding with their answer, true was green and false was red. I was pleased that many students had remembered previous lessons.
Q: What is an example of this impact?
A: I rarely see or interact with the kids outside the workshop so I don’t hear much from them. However, I do let them “grade” me by placing different colored poker chips in a bowl as they walk out of the garden. Red is not so hot, green is great, blue is okay. The last several times I have gotten all green poker chips. Even the adult volunteers enjoy my workshops and one has volunteered to finance some activities this year.
Q: What are some challenges or lessons A Rocha has learned?
A: It’s tough to have one lesson and adapt it for grades 2-8 all by myself. While my wife is supportive of the plastic research we are involved in, she can’t be involved in Pomona Hope work. However, I do get to work with the Pomona Hope staff and the pastor of the Presbyterian church that houses Pomona Hope. I’m also doing energy conservation work for them.
Q: What are some ways people can get involved?
A: We appreciate your donations and support. I’m trying to get animals for their lessons this year. Often folks will come out and show a hawk, owl, or some other cool animal, but for a fee. I also do birdwatching with them and two more good binoculars would be useful.
Q: What are your hopes or goals for 2023 and beyond?
A: What I’d LOVE to do is get these kids out to the local national forest. That would involve a chartered bus. It would also be so fun to have a camp out with kids and families at a local USFS campground on a Friday or Saturday. Both these activities would involve a lot of planning and funding, but it would be so worth it.
More than anything else, I’d love to have an intern to assist with Pomona Hope activities, as well as other projects. I am aware that I can do all things through Christ, but I have discovered that does not mean I can do it all. An intern or volunteer would be really fun and SoCal A Rocha would get much more done for God’s glory.
Thank you so much to Mark McReynolds for all his hard work with the Pomona Hope workshops.
For more information check out: https://arocha.us/socal.
To support the work at Pomona Hope, you can make a donation by visiting https://arocha.us/donate and direct your donation to SoCal A Rocha.
Merna Chance says
For several years, I lived in the Pomona Art Colony and understand the significance of bringing life into this city. This truly is hopeful.