ARVIN — After years of advocating, Arvin residents celebrated Monday as Bakersfield College officials unveiled plans to construct a long-awaited college center in the rural farming community.

The center is planned as a 20,000-square-foot one-building campus that will include classrooms, faculty offices, support services and administrative offices.

“We know how much education can affect a family,” said Abel Guzman, BC director of rural initiatives. “Imagine how much a college can affect a city.”

The center will break ground this spring and be open by fall 2021, district officials said.

“If you have a student going in as a freshman right now, they’ll have a college by the time they graduate right across the street,” Kern Community College District Trustee Bill Thomas told community members Monday night at the Arvin Veteran’s Center.

The center in Arvin, one of the most anticipated projects of the $502 million bond measure, will be pushed through the Division of State Architects office to expedite the construction process, said William Potter, co-chairman of the college’s Facilities and Sustainability Committee.

“We’re fast tracking this,” Potter said. “It’s not that far off. The students right now who are in high school will benefit from this program as soon as we get it through.”

Arvin community members have, for years, flooded district board meetings and made “BC in Arvin” their rallying cry as they urged KCCD to fund an accessible college center in their hometown — some 20 miles south of Bakersfield College’s Panorama Drive campus.

“An investment in education is a single best investment in any person or public agency can make in its future,” Arvin Mayor Jose Gurrola recalled telling Bakersfield College officials during a community forum seven years ago, before he entered public office.

Their only option in town has been to take night courses at Arvin High, where KCCD rents classroom space. Almost 900 students enrolled in courses there in 2016, and enrollment at Arvin High, which peaked at 2,500 this year, has been growing every year since 2012.

It wasn’t until months after voters passed a $502 million bond that the district confirmed it would deliver a standalone college campus across the street from Arvin High on land the city donated. Community members got their first look at preliminary plans of the center Monday night.

“No more promises made,” Thomas said after plans were unveiled. “Just promises kept.”

Jim Young, a lifelong Arvin resident and retired KCCD chancellor, has been relentless about getting such a center in his hometown, BC President Sonya Christian said.

“He kept constantly talking about the importance of having a college not 10 miles away from this community, not 20 miles away, but right here,” Christian said. “For college to be a reality, the people in this community need to see it every day.”

Young, who was in attendance Monday, described it as an occasion worth celebrating

Gurrola was resolute when asked what led to the center: “The community made this happen.”

Harold Pierce covers education and health for The Californian. He can be reached at 661-395-7404. Follow him on Twitter @RoldyPierce

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