Outreach and Arvin High School

IMG_1699I’ve made no secret of the fact that outreach is essential to Bakersfield College taking information on the importance of higher education into the various communities we serve. I know, as do others around Kern County, that many times, our residents don’t think college is an option – that going to work is their only path following high school.

After screening the movie First Generation last year, we came to understand exactly how important outreach is to making higher education an option for our community. Featuring a Bakersfield College student, the movie showed exactly what high school students go through as they plan the rest of their lives.

Our outreach team has been working hard in the community, at events and high schools, to take information about BC to potential students. I was able to accompany the team, led by Steve Watkin, to a visit to Arvin High School.

If you aren’t from the area, let me tell you a bit about Arvin. This is a small community southeast of Bakersfield. Primarily Hispanic, these residents support the agriculture industry in Kern County. It is a community with the area’s lowest college-going rate, lowest rate of college degrees, lowest unemployment, and lowest household income. We all know that education can change these factors – particularly the unemployment and household income – but when forced to choose between financially supporting the family and going to school, the immediate income benefit outweighs the future earnings potential education makes possible.

Steve and his team are doing a phenomenal job of systematically visiting the high schools in Bakersfield College’s service area. There are more than 30 high schools feeding to Bakersfield College, and Arvin High School supports the communities of Arvin and Lamont.

As I walked into the Library at Arvin High School, I was pleased to see about 100 students listening to one of our counselors, Alex, talk about options at Bakersfield College. Through our multiple measures efforts, a number of these students were already placed in appropriate coursework and has completed their educational plans! I can only imaging how much our student success and indicators will improve as we continue our outreach into high schools.

Steve talks so much about how important it is to bring opportunity into the high schools – to help students where they are comfortable so they can be successful transitioning to college work. I am so proud of the work we are doing to help students be college ready!

I also was able to talk to Cynthia Zamora, a senior at Arvin High School, who will be coming to BC in the fall. Let’s enjoy Cynthia.

The community supporting our students. Thanksgiving 2014.

2015 Turkey Voucher Distribution

Student Government Association President Alex Dominguez and Student Pantry Coordinator Gabby Caraballo receive turkey vouchers from California Water Service.

Here is a draft blog post from last year that was not published.  Enjoy!

Just in time for Thanksgiving last year, our Student Government Association worked with Senator Jean Fuller and the California Water Service to distribute vouchers for free Thanksgiving turkeys to students through the Renegade Pantry.

Senator Fuller said of the program “To say ‘thanks’ for all of this year’s blessings, I partnered with California Water Service again to distribute 100 Thanksgiving turkey vouchers throughout each county within the 18th Senate District to benefit needy families, veterans, homeless persons, and the elderly. Special thanks to California Water Service for its generosity and all of the other partners who assisted me in the distribution.”

Bakersfield College was pleased to participate in the annual program, and support our needy students and their families with the main part of their holiday meal!

Dr. Doolittle’s Heaven and the Levan Center

Anne Benvenuti

Anne Benvenuti

It’s impossible to fully explain what an exquisite treasure Bakersfield College’s Levan Center for the Humanities has become. Since opening in 2010, the Center has consistently featured a variety of speakers and presentations that run the gamut of academic disciplines.

But the true crowning achievement of a Levan Center event is that you can often walk into a given presentation knowing virtually nothing about the topic, only to leave enthralled and excited about a field or an idea or a personality that you never would have guessed could or would so capture your imagination.

IMG_4373Case in point – what if we could talk to the animals? And what if they’ve actually been talking to us all along?

Anne Benvenuti, who regaled the Levan Center audience on Feb. 23, believes the great divide often put between humans and the rest of Earth’s creatures isn’t nearly as great as many think. In fact, the professor, clinical psychologist and Episcopal priest says changing how we think and relate to animals would take a profound step toward changing all life on the planet for the better.

Reading from her new book “Spirit Unleashed: Reimagining Human-Animal Relations,” Benvenuti recounted her encounter with a dehydrated bat she found during a hike. First taking the animal for dead, she quickly realized the still breathing bat’s plight when it brought its tiny hands to its dry tongue, all but begging for water.

IMG_4393After quenching the animal’s thirst in a nearby creek, the apparently grateful creature swam away – but the brief intersection of their two lives left Benvenuti further convinced in the power of silent communication.

“Love one little thing and you love the entire universe that holds it,” Benvenuti writes. “As well as the essence from which it pours forth, and the pulse that beats in it, and the breath that heaves it, and the awareness that connects it. Save one little thing and you save your soul entire.”

IMG_4395During her hour-long discussion “Dr. Doolittle’s Heaven,” Benvenuti outlined some of the contemporary research establishing language as a common pervasive system across the animal kingdom and attempted to tear down the remaining perceived barriers separating humans from the rest of the planet’s animal life.

Benvenuti advocates new definitions of soul and spirituality that not only encompass all the vast variety of life on Earth, but the adoption of a type of natural spirituality that will forever bind that life together.

Heady stuff…but exactly the kind of stuff the Levan Center was created to showcase.

Moments like Anne’s soul-enriching talk are a constant reminder to me to recognize and appreciate the vision of Dr. Norman Levan in funding the center’s creation.

Dr. Levan left us last year, but as I watched this woman speak and saw the engagement in her audience, all held in rapt attention, I knew that somewhere, he was very pleased.

Bakersfield College Equity TV

IMG_4317Education never comes easy. Nothing worth acquiring ever does. And with all of life’s pressures and responsibilities we juggle each day – our jobs, our families, our friends and all the rest that comes with our frantic existences – it’s easy to look at the added toil of going to classes, completing assignments and paying tuitions and think, “Why am I putting myself through all this?”


That journey can seem even tougher to conquer if you come from a disadvantaged background. For many, paying bills, taking care of family members and simply surviving in difficult environments and communities can easily take precedence over the education that will inevitably set you up for an even better tomorrow.

BC has been working on issues of Equity and Inclusion in a focused way over the last two years particularly as it relates to the success of students in their educational attainment. We have several Equity initiatives underway and our newest initiative is Equity TV.

Launched last month on January 19, 2015, on Martin Luther King day, the one-hour series webcast on Bakersfield.com explores the important benefits available to students from all walks of life to help motivate higher education dreams among potential future Renegades and their families.

EquityTV Sonya Jan 19 2015

Dr. Sonya Christian, President, Bakersfield College

Every Monday at 11 a.m., hosts Francis Mayer and Christine Dinh O’Dell spotlight the experiences of BC faculty, staff, students and alumni to deliver a fundamental message: education is the key to life success and the bright future we all crave.

Horace Mitchell EquityTV 2015

Dr. Horace Mitchell, President of CSUB

On January 19th, as the first guest on the show, I introduced BC-EquityTV to our community. Dr. Horace Mitchell, President of CSUB, was a guest on the launch episode. Thank you President Mitchell!

Subsequent weeks have similarly highlighted other special student populations particularly in need of encouragement and guidance, including Latino students, veterans and former foster youth.

EquityTV Sandra Serrano

Sandra Serrano, Chancellor, KCCD

Last Monday’s (Feb 23rd) show, shot in the beautiful studios at the Bakersfield Californian downtown, centered on the difficult issues confronting athletically gifted high school grads forced to tackle the often unfamiliar terrain of higher education.

Specifically, why should I care about school if I’m on my way to a life in professional sports?

Francis got a resounding answer to that question from former BC and NFL player Jeremy Staat. Jeremy recounted his rocky relationship with learning while at BC and later at Arizona State before being drafted in the second round of 1998 NFL Draft by the Pittsburgh Steelers.

You can still feel the regret as Jeremy told the heartbreaking story of being rejected for a post-football job at Home Depot – all because he left school without completing his degree. Despite a four-year NFL career and a trophy case of athletic accomplishments, none of it helped set up Jeremy to succeed after his career on the playing field.  Jeremy is now a welding faculty at BC while he pursue a master’s degree.


Coach Reggie Bolton

IMG_4360Other guests this week included BC’s Associate Director of Athletics and assistant football coach Reggie Bolton, who advocates a “win at life” philosophy of academics ahead of any on-field accomplishments; and current Renegade football players safety Pat Marzett and running back Curtis McGregor, who despite challenging upbringings, have committed to achieving their higher education dreams with the same passion they’ve carried on to the turf at Memorial Stadium.

You can check out those Equity TV segments with Jeremy, Reggie, Pat and Curtis below as well as all the interviews from the show’s first five episodes on the Equity TV page at bakersfieldcollege.edu.

I want to thank the entire BC crew that made this happen.  Amber Chiang, Odella Johnson, Corny Rodriguez, Paul Beckworth, Tina Mendoza, and Primavera Arvizu.  Tune in and see just one of the fantastic projects at BC helping to make higher education a reality for everyone in Bakersfield and Kern County.


BC Faculty and Staff in the news

Sonya B&N Feb 8 2015 after Sterling Silver

Sonya Christian at B&N the morning after Sterling Silver. Feb 8, 2015

What a grand event last night at the Sterling Silver dinner. It was a spectacular event.  Red carpet, amazing music, great food, great students….. We had an incredible internal and external team that made it happen.

Internal Team: There were many, but let me highlight Tom Gelder, Angie Paquette, Mary Jo Pasek, Amber Chiang, Lisa Kent, Kristin Rabe, Manuel de Los Santos.

External: Marlene Heise who led the team. David Gay and Rick Kreiser who co-chaired and co-hosted the event.

After Sterling Silver I headed out to the Hispanic Chamber annual dinner where Corny had a BC table to support KCHCC. Every moment of yesterday I had people just tell me how BC had helped them or a family member or….. I am so glad to be back as BC’s 10th president.


This morning, here I am at Barnes and Nobles savoring some Earl Grey with honey and just at peace with the world, enjoying the wonderful, generous, talented, smart folks that make up BC.

Jennifer Garrett and Kyle Carter Feb 7 2015

Kyle Carter & Jennifer Garrett accommodating the photographer (moi)


One comes to mind in particular, Jennifer Garrett who tirelessly played on the harp and piano the whole night.  And she facebooked how tired her arms were.

Here is a “copy and paste” of an article in the Bakersfield Californian on Dec 17, 2014 by Russ Allred.  Sit back and enjoy Jennifer Garrett and enjoy our BC colleagues.


BY RUSS ALLRED For The Californian

The term is over, finals are graded, it’s dark in the Bakersfield College parking lot, but a light is shining in one of the classrooms. The BC Chamber Singers are warming up for another gig, still polishing their tone and perfecting the phrases. They all started practicing before the semester started and they’ll be singing Christmas carols for another two weeks.

How does one motivate a team of college kids who receive no compensation? It’s only logical to look to their leader for answers. She’s Dr. Jennifer Garrett, all 4’4″ and 82 pounds of her. She needs cooperation from a class of crooners. An unlikely looking leader, but one who could teach lessons to small business owners and corporate executives, hence her mention here.

Let’s dissect this dynamic group and see what leadership lessons we can learn to the count of ten.

1. Garrett hand-picked her choir based on their skill and what they could contribute. Most great leaders have tryouts for their team. You might want to rethink the players on yours.

2. Garret set a goal for the choir to sing in Rome Italy, June 2015. A grand objective with a time limit that is shared by the group is generally motivating. You should set lofty, objectives for sales growth within time constraints.

3. Each member receives regular communication from the leader. A good leader informs the team what they are planning. There are written daily goals and follow up on performances.

4. Garret expects the best performance, every time. The boss should never be satisfied with mediocrity.

5. As a musician, Garret offers tools and processes for improvement. It’s not enough to demand performance; you must show the way.

6. Individual problems are addressed privately. If someone is detracting from the group’s performance, it is never good to point it out in public.

7. Those who haven’t practiced, don’t perform. In business you must cut the slackers.

8. Garret works just as hard behind the scenes, preparing the practice, practicing her directions, and directing the supporting team. You’ve got to walk the talk.

9. She assigned section leaders to enhance practices with their individual parts. You must delegate duties to get everything done.

10. Most importantly, Garret shows her appreciation for performance and progress. Simple things like treats or notes or public acknowledgement move individuals to do more than expected.

Find the article at: http://www.bakersfieldcalifornian.com/business/x945008030/RUSS-ALLRED-What-leaders-do-to-motivate


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