The Kern High School District has partnered with Bakersfield College to offer four new Early College pathways to high schoolers, who will have the opportunity to graduate with an associate's degree at the same time they receive a high school diploma.

Over the last five years, the college's partnership with KHSD has grown from 43 to a total of 343 dual enrollment sections that were offered in 23 district schools during the 2019-2020 school year.

Additionally, Arvin, Shafter and West high schools were the first schools to have Early College pathways implemented, explained Carla Stallworth, KHSD director of educational services, which focus on general education courses. 

"They’re able to get a lot of those general education requirements that are required in college out of the way in high school," she added.

Now, Early College pathways in psychology, administration of justice, public health and industrial automation will be available to any KHSD student for free. Students in ninth grade will be able to earn degrees if they complete the program, while 10th through 12th graders will complete units towards a degree or certificate.

Classes for this first semester will be online. Moving forward, classes will take place in the evenings at the KHSD's new Career Technical Education Center, transportation from sites provided, and at the BC Southwest Center. The public health and industrial automation pathways will be offered at the CTEC building, while the other two will be at the Southwest Center.

Psychology and administration of justice are two of the most popular and versatile pathways at BC, explained Kylie Campbell, Early College director. With the new BC Southwest Campus focusing on transfer pathways, these two are designed for students who plan to continue in a baccalaureate program at Cal State Bakersfield and ensures that they'll graduate in two years and 60 credits after obtaining their associate degree.

Public health is also a rapidly-growing field across the country and globe due to the coronavirus pandemic.

"A pandemic happened and people realized the value of being educated and being prepared," Campbell said. "The medical field is not just nurses and doctors. It’s a whole team working to prevent outbreaks, spread knowledge and concerns."

This pathway will allow students to earn an Associate Degree for Transfer that can be transferred to other public health programs throughout the state or can be applied toward degrees in other health science fields.

With a brand new engineering and robotics lab at their new CTEC facility, KHSD has the facilities necessary to offer the undergraduate course requirements for BC’s Industrial Automation Baccalaureate Degree. The high school students who begin this pathway in ninth grade will complete an associate's degree by the time they graduate from high school, making them eligible to apply to the baccalaureate program at BC. These graduates will also be qualified for positions with industry partners right after high school and be able to start getting experience in the field.

Currently there's room for around 500 students this year.

Eduarda Angeles, an incoming Arvin High School senior, has participated in the public speaking Early College program since her freshman year, juggling regular schoolwork, home life and work in the process. She'll be going into the fall with 28 college credits and will have 34 credits by spring, the equivalent to completing one year of college.

"It’s definitely a stepping stone because it gives you a point of view of what to look for ... it was a good preview to what college life is like," she said.

Steve Watkin, executive director of Outreach and Early College, said expanding the program to the entire district will help increase degree attainment in Kern County. Degree attainment is as low as 2 percent in some rural areas and even still below state averages in city areas.

"Everything we do even in high schools, we’re on a trajectory of improving the degree attainment in Kern County," Watkin said. "The jobs of the future will require at least a two-year degree, and we’re trying to make sure our students have a two-year degree."

Interested students can fill out an application at https://bit.ly/394XPnU.

Ema Sasic can be reached at 661-395-7392. Follow her on Twitter: @ema_sasic.

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