Each day, Kern County classrooms are filled with qualified and caring teachers who provide students with high-quality opportunities to learn. In the Kern High School District, these opportunities are particularly designed to ensure that students are college and career ready.

In fact, our district’s mission statement dictates that we graduate students “prepared to succeed in the workplace and at the post-secondary level.” To this end, we proudly report that nearly 87 percent of our students graduate from high school, higher than the state average (based on numbers from the California Department of Education), and 60 percent of our graduates enroll in college right after high school, according to the National Student Clearinghouse.

Our college and career preparing efforts begin as soon as students step onto campus. With a focus on strengthening literacy and math skills, all our students are guided to develop the academic readiness necessary to complete their a-g college-entrance requirements, as well as take Dual Enrollment and Advanced Placement courses, which allow students to earn college credit while in high school.

Over 1,500 students are currently enrolled in Dual Enrollment courses and nearly 4,000 students are enrolled in Advanced Placement courses. Current research shows that students enrolled in these courses will be more successful in college.

Many KHSD students will be the first in their family to attend college, and the AVID program lends additional support to meet their objective. Advancement Via Individual Determination teaches students academic strategies to maintain scholastic success, as well as provides useful approaches to overcoming challenges and remaining persistent in their educational and life goals. Over 1,400 KHSD students are enrolled in AVID, and over 80 percent of AVID seniors attended college immediately after graduation last year.

Also bolstering college and career readiness in the KHSD is Career and Technical Education. Over 19,000 students are currently enrolled in CTE courses. Representing 15 industry sectors, the KHSD offers 40 unique career pathways in our schools. Each pathway is designed to prepare students for postsecondary education and high-wage, high-skilled, and high-demand jobs. The new website, kernhighnow.org, highlights these CTE pathways and allows our families to research each of them by industry sector or high school their students attend. In addition, visitors to this site can explore these programs by reviewing videos highlighting specific pathways.

Small learning academies, another successful program model, also help our students achieve college and career readiness. Over 2,500 students are enrolled in academies focused on health, energy, and STEM, or Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. Project Lead the Way is one such program that leads students to postsecondary education in the STEM fields. Chevron, one of our industry partners, jointly supports PLTW, which directly leads into Cal State Bakersfield’s engineering program. All CTE programs are guided and supported by local business partners who help us determine the relevant skills needed to match current industry and workforce standards.

The strong relationship between the KHSD and the community (including feeder districts, post-secondary education partners, and local industry and agency affiliates) yields many positive results. Where once we worked independently, we now work collectively, assessing necessary outcomes so that each group properly prepares the students for their next level of learning or job training. This seamless transitioning from one level to the next has increased local college-enrollment numbers and raised the collaborative significance between industry and education.

Examples of our community collaboration include: a full sponsorship from PG&E for two students for a service-learning trip Kenya; the annual Stock Market competition sponsored by Junior Achievement of Bakersfield; the VEX Robotics Competition supported by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers and the Kern Science Foundation; the annual Open Doors to Federal Courts program supported by our local government; BHS’s work in the Bakersfield Plaque Project, funded by The Bakersfield Californian Foundation; and the many agricultural programs supported by the agribusiness community.

I am proud of what our educators and students are accomplishing, but our continued successes only drive us to keep improving our work because our number one goal is to help our students achieve in school and in life. As we partner with our community, the KHSD will continue to strive to engage students in meaningful learning opportunities that will prepare them to succeed in the workplace and postsecondary education.

Brenda Lewis, Ed.D., is the assistant superintendent of instruction for the Kern High School District.