“Thank You, Mr. Falker” — and Thank You, Mrs. Mitchell’s Class!

On April 23, 2015 I received a text from our Student Government Association President, Alex Dominguez, that read:

President Christian, a teacher from Bakersfield City School District (Owens Primary School) reached out and asked if I could help her find some community leaders to read to students on May 21 from 9:00-9:30. I won’t be able to attend however I wanted to check and see if you would be interested!

I took a peek at my calendar and thought I could rearrange my schedule and quickly texted back to Alex and said I could.


Selfie with Mrs. Mitchell and her Third Grade Class


Then on May 4th I received this charming letter from Joyce Victor, Kindergarten Teacher.

Joyce Victor

I delighted in the presentation of the letter and made a quick note that the reading was a long ways away…..May 21st and today was only May 4th.

The next thing I know is that it is May 20th late afternoon and all I knew was that I was reading to a third grade gate class.  What does that mean….. what do I read…. panic sets in.  This is much more complex than presenting to a Chamber Breakfast event or even teaching calculus (i was a math faculty many years ago).  And then I remembered meeting Krista Bolton, wife of BC Assistant Football Coach Reggie Bolton, at a recent football event.  I also remembered that Krista taught third grade.  YES! There is a God watching over me and taking care of me.

Krista came through in a big way, steering me to author Patricia Polacco’s autobiographical book “Thank You, Mr. Falker” — and arranging for a copy I could borrow.  What was quite amazing was the time and care she put into finding the right book for me.  This included conversations with her colleagues and discussing the pros and cons of several books, checking Target, then Barnes and Nobles to try to purchase the book for me since she did not have it with her at home.  When she could not find the book readily available for purchase, she arranged to rendezvous with me at her school, early morning on May 21st, so she could get it from the library for me.

I took in the wonderful story — and immediately fell in love with the book, which truly captures the impact a wise and caring teacher can have on a young student.

Dr Christian - reading

Sonya Christian reading to third graders

In the story, a young girl named Trisha is thrilled at the thought of learning how to read, but gets discouraged when she finds the printed page seems to be nothing more than a jumble of letters and numbers.

Mocked as a dummy by her classmates, Trisha eventually comes to the attention of Mr. Falker, who not only recognizes the young girl’s artistic talent, but also her reading difficulties and the sad and mounting frustration she feels. The teacher makes it his mission to help Trisha overcome her problems and finally truly enjoy the world of reading for the first time.

Krista couldn’t have made a better suggestion.

And Mrs. Mitchell and her two dozen third-graders couldn’t have been more welcoming or the children more connected to the heartwarming story.

It’s so satisfying for me to not only tell such a lovely story about the joy and importance of reading, but imparting that message to those engaged, happy young faces in such a powerful way made for an enriching morning that I won’t soon forget.

Before my time with the children, I was happy to have my first face-to-face meeting with Bakersfield City School District Superintendent Dr. Robert Arias.

Dr. Robert Arias

Sonya Christian with Rob Arias

Rob and his fine team at the district have been doing some fantastic work getting all those enthusiastic young minds excited about learning and their futures, so it was great to have some time with him to talk about BCSD.

Thanks so much to Dr. Arias, Bessie Owens School, and to Mrs. Mitchell and her top-notch class for a truly fabulous day! And thank you Krista Bolton for getting me the best book ever.

BC’s Second Annual Equity Conference

Equity 4

I am so proud to report that BC held its second equity conference on April 23rd. Let’s hear from a few key individuals who made this happen

Bryan Hirayama, BC’s EODAC Faculty Co-chair:

The 2nd Annual Equity Conference was a smashing success.  Bakersfield College welcomed visitors from up and down the state, including attendees from San Joaquin Delta College, Porterville College, Taft College, Grossmont and Mira Costa College.

With both a streaming feed and ASL interpreters on site, the Equity Conference moved to practice a central tenet of BC’s equity agenda: meeting people where they are.

ArvizuThis year’s line-up included two amazing speakers, meaningful and challenging breakout sessions and a moving student panel with representatives from some of our most vulnerable and underrepresented student groups. Thank you to all who helped plan and those who attended. We look forward to seeing you back next year. 

Michele Bresso, Dean of Instruction:

Director and Chief Executive of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory Dr. Dan Arvizu served as keynote speaker. Dr. Arvizu, who holds a PhD in mechanical engineering, is the first Hispanic to be named director of the National Science Board. As you’d expect from a scientist of Dr Arvizu’s caliber, his message touted the value of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education as an investment in our future, offering high returns to students, the community and to the nation if we can increase the number of STEM workers throughout America.

But according to Dr. Arvizu, STEM faces an equity challenge. As you can see in the graph below, white workers make up a disproportionate number of STEM workers.


So increasing the minority representation in those critical fields, particularly in the upper management end, is critical not only in elevating the quality of the work being done, but opening up new areas of opportunity for students who may not think they were cut out for a future in STEM industries.

Odella Johnson, Director of Equity and Inclusion:

GoosbyMeanwhile, fellow keynote speaker Dr. J. Goosby Smith posited how community colleges are uniquely poised to transform the lives of students through diversity and inclusion.  Using a garden as a metaphor, she distinguished these two distinct concepts.  Inclusion refers to the “soil”: the college’s culture, policies, and practices.  Diversity refers to giving each flower what it needs to thrive.  Some need shade, others sun.

Consequently, Goosby Smith believes equity does not refer to equal treatment, but rather identical opportunity to thrive.  She then applied her evidence-based model of inclusion to the community college culture and classroom.

Equity 3The day closed with frank presentations from a handful of BC students, all from various walks of life, sharing their personal stories of getting to where they are today and how BC can do better to address their needs.

It was an eye-opening and ultimately very satisfying and encouraging day.

Regional Occupational Center (ROC): Making a Difference

Salvadore_GochezThere was so much to discuss in my last post from the phenomenal President’s Breakfast event that I wanted to stop and revisit one of the highlights from the morning worthy of its own separate recognition.

Among the stellar speakers at the Breakfast, Salvador Gochez from the Kern High School District Regional Occupational Center delivered a remarkable speech about the amazing work going on at the center as well as their partnership with BC.

For those unfamiliar with ROC, it’s a one-stop career jump-start, a public education and technical training center offering courses aimed at molding both high school students and adults into entry-level employees in dozens of fields.

While some use their new-found skills in computer technology or fashion merchandising or graphic arts to jump directly into the workforce, others discover their personal next step is higher education. BC personnel regularly counsel ROC students, leading many to decide on becoming full-time Renegades.

One of the highlights of the breakfast came when Salvador read a message a group of ROC students (pictured below) wanted to pass on to everyone at Bakersfield College:


“On behalf of my classmates and myself, I would like to thank the Bakersfield College staff for the college support they have given us at ROC. Receiving academic counseling from you motivated all of us to attend college. Indeed, we can say the assistance from the BC staff ratified our choice in attending BC. Staff such as yourselves are very few in our community, willing to take the time needed for the students. We hope you continue visiting our campuses to assist future students with their career goals. Without your help, none of this would have been possible. My classmates and I are confident that we couldn’t have made a better choice than attending BC. Certainly, we know that Bakersfield College will help us achieve both our personal and professional goals.  Once again, thank you for your time, your patience and dedication to our education and we look forward to becoming part of BC’s family in the fall.”
In addition to feeling heartwarming gratification from that message, I’m also so pleased we can stand shoulder-to-shoulder with a resource like the ROC here in Kern County. While I’ll always counsel on the benefits of going to college and achieving a degree, some people have compelling reasons for wanting to immediately get a job and get to work.  In those cases, no one in our area does a better job at getting those men and women ready for the labor market as the ROC.

President’s Breakfast: Thank you to our high school colleagues.

Prez-Breakfast-05There’s nothing better than getting motivated students into BC and helping them prepare for graduation and life beyond.  But perhaps the only thing more critical than helping today’s Renegades fulfill their goals is making sure that collegiate success is even simpler and more rewarding for the Renegades of tomorrow.

That’s why coordination between BC and all the talented and dedicated high school administrators in our area is so vital.  Working hand in hand with high schools to get students thinking about and even receiving credit toward higher education months, even years before they move on is one of the greatest enticements we have to make sure that learning doesn’t end at high school graduation.

With that in mind, I was thrilled to join over 100 area educators from BC and our local high school partners in attending my 3rd annual President’s Breakfast earlier this month to talk about that very topic — seamlessly transitioning more high-school students to continuing their education at Bakersfield College.

And we’re a lot further along in that process than you might realize.

Prez-Breakfast-02Just a few short years ago, students would graduate high school, then arrive that fall at a campus like BC, where they would only then begin the process of becoming a full-fledged college student.

But now, thanks in large part to the ramped-up relationship between BC and local high schools, students interested in becoming a Renegade are handling tasks like orientation, assessment testing, counseling and registration in their very own high schools. Having all that paperwork and acclimation work done along with a handful of college credits under their belts from select approved high school courses, many students are starting their BC careers with a considerable leg-up on their freshman year.

While we’ve already made some tremendous strides, the most critical aspect of the President’s Breakfast is the opportunity for exchange between us and the high schools about what’s working well — and what could still use some more fine-tuning — to most benefit the students.

Prez-Breakfast-01This year, we heard from our high school partners about the need for more dual enrollment classes, particularly courses focused on student development, communication and government.  Some participants suggested that dual enrollment should provide 12 college units in high schools, while others target up to 20 units and still others would like to see up to 30 units available.


While we will look into all the possibilities raised at the breakfast, it’s encouraging to note that modifications and improvements suggested at last year’s breakfast have already come to fruition.  I was pleased to announce that spurred by requests made last year, BC will now be accepting AP math course credit when placing new students.

Our partners also called for more open math and English class sections, more summer sections as well as clearer pathways to priority registration to fulfill the growing need.

For pictures and other information check out the website at: https://www.bakersfieldcollege.edu/president/annual-breakfast#photos15

Overall, it was a stimulating, vibrant and valued exchange of ideas.  It really speaks to a new paradigm in the spirited collaboration happening with our high school partners.  And it certainly signals an even brighter day ahead for all of our Renegade students, both present and future.

I want to thank all of the folks who made this event happen.  In particular Steve Watkin and the outreach team.  Chris Glaser who took care of all the details.  THANK YOU!!

A Very Thoughtful Penny

Lincoln PennyPart of the joy of being BC’s President is the opportunity I get to meet and learn about our amazing students.  Granted, I’ll never get to know each and every one of the 20,000 Renegades that stream across campus each semester — but that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t like to.  They’ve each got their own unique and compelling stories and the moments when I get to learn about the individual members of our BC family is time I treasure.

Because it’s not every day you get introduced to wonderful souls like our own BC student Jose Arreola.

I met Jose several days ago while I attended an SGA rally here on campus and I was immediately struck by his good nature and obvious enthusiasm for his school.

We only spoke for a few minutes, but I was thrilled to learn that Jose would be DJing next season during the BC football games.  I wished him all kinds of encouragement and success at that tricky job.

A few days later, Jose came by my office in the Admin building because he said he wanted to give me a gift.  I was in a meeting of course and he handed Jennifer a 1913 Lincoln penny, complete with the old wheat stock design that U.S. mints phased out in the 1950’s.

Jose said the coin was part of a larger collection given to him by his grandfather.  Considering 1913 was the monumental year that Bakersfield College first opened its doors to students, Jose said he felt it was right that BC should have the rare coin.  The coin will hold an honored place here in my office as a reminder of the century that Bakersfield College has been serving this community with excellence.

Thanks, Jose…you’re one of the 20,000-plus reasons I love coming to Bakersfield College every day! We are BC!


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