One hundred years of students have come to Bakersfield College: students seeking immediate job skills, students transferring to four-year colleges, and students simply taking a few classes to get an edge for a job promotion. When I see our students walking the campus, heading to class, or poring over a book in the library, I am proud of what we have done so well and for so long.

Our focus on the students makes us be both effective and affordable. Community colleges are an economic engine, serving students of all walks of life, helping make our state economically competitive and business friendly and creating a healthy society of engaged citizens. In a recent communication from the Community College League of California, I learned that community colleges enroll 2.3 million Californians -- 28 percent less state support per student than K-12 schools, 57 percent less than the California State University, and 78 percent less than the University of California.

Every business and every citizen is touched by what we do. Patients in hospitals are cared for by our nurses, and children watched over by our skilled, child care providers. Across generations we support the dream of advanced education of our students; our first graduate, Josephine Chase, went to UC Berkeley; 100 years later her great-great niece and nephew, Shelby and Colby Chase, are entering Bakersfield College with wide eyes and big dreams.

We serve Kern County, a diverse land with a diverse population. Just over half our students are Hispanic, a third are white and almost 10 percent are African American. This fall we have more than 18,000 students walking our halls. Our increasing enrollments reflect the population and also the dreams and needs of our students. One student, a woman who suffered a stroke three years ago and lost the use of her left side, is returning to retrain. She's venturing out for the first time since her stroke and taking forestry classes here at Bakersfield College. Another student, a young man who just graduated from Arvin High School, ready to take on the world, is a first-time student. He's seeking a career as a science teacher, and completing his general education at Bakersfield College before transferring to his dream university.

These students, and the many thousands of others attending Bakersfield College this semester, and the many hundreds of thousands in years past, are our legacy.

I invite you to our Centennial Gala on Oct. 25, the night before the BC homecoming football game, for a proud celebration of this legacy. You've invited whether you are a graduate of BC yourself, the friend or family member of a graduate, or your life has been touched by the trained and caring professionals we train.

We will transform the Gil Bishop Sports Center at Bakersfield College into a formal event like no other. You'll enjoy delicious food prepared by Bakersfield College's talented Culinary Arts students, enjoy live music by Bakersfield College alumnus Matt Munoz and Mento Buru, and have the opportunity to bid on live auction items. Call the Bakersfield College Foundation at 395-4800 to reserve your seats.

I also invite you to join me on Sept. 14 for our football team's home opener at Memorial Stadium against archrival Mt. San Antonio College. Wear your Renegade red! That week, we'll also celebrate the 59th annual Alumni Association BBQ at Stramler Park. Get your tickets by calling 395-4326.

BC has no fewer than18 different sports. Check them all out at In fact BC has a rich menu of events for all -- the Renegade Room, which is the learning laboratory for our culinary students, our performing arts programs, the gallery that displays our fine arts, the Levan Institute and the Levan lecture series, the Planetarium and the GardenFest, just to name a few.

You can get frequent updates on what's happening up on the hill by following my blog at I welcome your comments and feedback as we prepare for the next 100 years and beyond.

Sonya Christian, PhD, is president of Bakersfield College. Community Voices is an expanded commentary of 650 to 700 words.