Philanthropy Matters

Kristen Barnes

Another successful graduation season has come to a close with more than 11,000 Kern County public high school graduates gleefully tossing their mortarboards high into the air.

Many of these students will begin their postsecondary journeys close to home, enrolling at Bakersfield College or CSUB, while others will relocate around the country, attending an array of public and private colleges and universities. All of these students are united by the same dream of a college education.

Yet sadly, they leave behind a substantial number of fellow graduates – graduates who have the potential to enter into some form of higher education but are limited by financial resources.

You see, every form of higher education has a cost. For some, the cost is obvious: tuition, fees, textbooks, housing; for others the cost is more obscure: lost wages while attending classes, transportation and even access to technology.

Scholarships close the funding gap students experience. They are one way to provide critical financial support for students – to help make higher education a reality. In many cases, the financial assistance provided by scholarships is a key factor. Gifts for scholarships help students to invest their energies more fully in their course work and pursue internships and leadership opportunities that enrich their personal development and career preparation.

Kern Community Foundation has been in the scholarship business since its establishment in 1999. We administer more than a dozen scholarships, such as the Mayor of Bakersfield Scholarship, the Arvin Women’s Club Scholarship Fund and the Nickel Family Scholarship for Agricultural Education. We have helped hundreds of students pursue higher education.

Our scholarship program is in action throughout the year as we work with local high schools to increase awareness of available scholarships, provide information sessions for interested families and conduct writing workshops to help students prepare competitive applications.

Our single online scholarship application provides the most efficient system to distribute awards and simplify the process for students. With just one application, students are eligible for multiple scholarships. This year, more than 350 applications were received and almost $350,000 of scholarship awards will be distributed.

We know that simply writing a check does not guarantee a college diploma. Foundation staff has taken the initiative to meet with every scholarship recipient to talk about their college and career plans, answer questions, provide tools for personal financial management and be that quiet cheerleader, calming their nerves. We continue to reach out, throughout their college years, providing an additional layer of support so more of these deserving students can accomplish their dreams.

You can make a difference, too, by contributing to or establishing a scholarship fund at Kern Community Foundation through an outright or estate gift. Funds may be established by individuals, like-minded groups, businesses or even grateful alums. Through the wonders of technology, each scholarship fund may adopt its own criteria for making annual awards – for example, students pursuing a particular major or attending a specific college or university. Investing in today’s students is an investment in our community’s future. Please consider supporting this worthwhile venture.

For more information, contact Kern Community Foundation at 325-5346. Kristen Barnes is the president and CEO at Kern Community Foundation. Contact her at Kristen@kernfoundation.org or 616-2601. The views expressed in this column are her own.

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