Sonya Christian

BC President Sonya Christian

By Casey Christie

One year ago, today the community voted Yes on Measure J. A yes vote meant sharing in a renewed vision of what moved the community to start Bakersfield College 104 years ago, and 61 years ago to start building the beautiful campus on Panorama Drive. Thank you for your support and thank you for sharing this vision.

In my Community Voices article of Nov 2, five days before the vote, I described the renewed vision this way: “Reconditioning our learning spaces that are over half a century old will give the next generations a strong foundation of knowledge and preparation, a learning environment that creates endless opportunities for the dreams of our future students.”

Today, one year later, our first project funded by our shared and renewed vision is the Veterans Resource Center. What better way to thank our community than by building this center as a commitment to the knowledge and preparation of our veterans. What better way than by focusing on student veterans’ needs in the learning environment, their opportunities, and their dreams for the future. Thank you veterans for your service.

Soon, on Veterans Day across our country, we will create space to remember the many sacrifices made by our men and women in service. Bakersfield College will be giving thanks during our week-long celebration of Vetfest. Nov. 11 is a celebration of the freedoms we enjoy, as well as a time for sober reflection of the high costs of freedom. It is also a time to look forward and reflect on the responsibility we share to support those who ensure equal liberties for generations to come.

For Bakersfield College, our responsibility is to be committed to our student veterans and supporting them through the transition from combat to college to graduation and beyond. We understand that the transitional period from military life to the classroom is often difficult and met with unforeseen difficulties. This was the case when we lost a 25-year-old student veteran on Feb. 4, 2016.

The new Veterans Resource Center funded by the community through Measure J will be a true game-changer for our returning veterans, now students, and will offer support services along with a team of staff to guide them through their educational journey. We currently have more than 680 enrolled student veterans and more each year. Our student veterans are an inspiration — through their stories, their successes and their courage. We are honored that they chose to come to BC. Thank you community members for your support of Measure J. Thank you student veterans for your service!

We have always been proud to serve our returning veterans. In Oct. 1946, when BC was still on the campus of Bakersfield High School, the Renegade RIP reported, “The influx of veterans has increased the student body enrollment from 450 to 1,100 this fall. The veterans make up the majority of students with a count of 658.”

Today, our student population has grown to more than 30,000, and when veterans choose BC, we must serve with purpose as we welcome them and support them. Our Veterans Resource Center is how we will ensure that welcoming support and service. It is our way to thank veterans for their sacrifices and accomplishments.

Thank you to our student veterans for your courage and service, for believing in yourself, for pursuing an education, and for choosing Bakersfield College. Thank you to our community for supporting Measure J and important initiatives. I can’t think of a better way to start building that renewed vision than by building the Veterans Resource Center to serve our student veterans. It is a good time to be at Bakersfield College. It is a good time to be in Bakersfield and it is a good time to be in Kern County.

Sonya Christian is the president of Bakersfield College.