Director of student success and equity for Bakersfield College
As a senior at North High School, Lesley Bonds-Lopez was voted by her classmates as the most likely to leave Bakersfield and never come back.
When she graduated in 2006, she left and attended college in North Carolina then completed her graduate work in Georgia. She returned to her home state to work as a career counselor at Scripps College – a job she loved – but was intrigued by an opportunity at Bakersfield college.
“Nan Gomez-Heitzeberg called me and talked to me for over an hour about the college and about the students and about the work that they’re doing and about President Christian’s vision and she really sold me on it,” Lesley said. “BC’s really become part of who I am and it’s given me a purpose here in Bakersfield.”
As the only member of her family to go to college, Lesley knows from experience the difference education makes.
“Education is the great equalizer,” she said. “It is the opportunity for people to build a bridge into a better life. I think in Kern County, we are confronted with some of the most complex and worthy challenges of our generation. The educational attainment rates in Kern County are incredibly low and in rural communities you have over 50 percent of people who don’t even have a high school diploma. How do (those children) see their future? Education is how they get there.”
At Scripps College, an elite private liberal arts institution, many of the students were high achievers with resources, family support and college knowledge. But being from a community where many people don’t have college degrees, Lesley wanted to be the support she needed when she was a student.
“(Education has) given me an entirely new world, an entirely new set of tools to be self-sufficient, to be able to give back,” she said. “It creates a healthier community for everyone when we educate people.”