Putting Higher Ed. Within Reach for South Kern Residents

April 14, 2016 /

By Yesenia Aguilar

Arvin High School’s mission, like that of most high schools, is to ensure its students graduate college and career ready. But the reality is that almost half of Arvin High graduates do not go on to college, limiting their opportunities and those of the community as a whole.

It is our responsibility as a community to raise the percentage of young people in Arvin who graduate high school and who go on to higher education, and a Bakersfield College satellite campus will help ensure we do just that.

Bakersfield College serves 15,000 students from all over Kern County on its 153-acre campus in northeast Bakersfield. That’s a 40-minute drive from Arvin, too far for a lot of families and students.

Creating a satellite campus in Arvin will help promote the idea that higher education is within reach, physically and financially.

Students attending Arvin High School, a large majority of who come from low-income immigrant households, would be able to take classes offered at the satellite campus, getting ahead in school and college credits. Several of my friends have said they would love to take classes in the summer or during the school year so that they wouldn’t have to pay for them once they did graduate.

Having a satellite campus in Arvin would also be beneficial for many working adults here who do not have the time or can’t afford the cost of traveling to Bakersfield to further their education. Although many adults believe it is too late for them to return to school – or at least that’s what my parents think – I believe the opposite. When adults work toward an education it demonstrates their determination to better their lives and that of their families. They too are the future and it is possible.

Finally, a satellite campus in Arvin would help promote a college going culture in a community where only 3 percent of adults hold a college degree. Not going to college would no longer be an option, since the campus would be right at our doorstep. That would mean jobs for the community, and more importantly a chance for the community to grow and develop into an intellectual contender on par with more privileged communities.

I am a junior at Arvin High School and I live in Lamont. I volunteer at San Joaquin Community Hospital, which is a 30-minute drive from my house. I get up every Sunday and drive to the hospital in part because I know those volunteer hours and the credits I get for them will help give me an edge on my college applications. With a Bakersfield College satellite campus I would not have to make that trip because I would be able to enroll in classes that would allow me to earn the credits I need.

Just because I am a low-income student does not mean I should be an unprepared one. With a satellite campus I would have what I need to walk onto a prestigious university and not feel disadvantaged. I would no longer be the poor, uneducated girl from Lamont, but an intellectual and strong young woman who used her education to her advantage.

Yesenia Aguilar, 17, is a student at Arvin High School, she joined South Kern Sol’s youth reporting team in September 2015.