College night

Stephanie Valabez, left, and Viriana Virrueta, both seniors at East Bakersfield High School, listen to a college recruiter at Kern County College Night, Monday.

Future college students packed Rabobank Arena Monday evening for the 19th Annual Kern County College Night.

The event usually draws about 8,000 students from across Kern County, and this year’s event appeared to draw another strong crowd.

From cheerleaders and football players still in their uniforms to parents sitting patiently in the bleachers, College Night attracted a wide variety of those wrapped up in the college hunt.

“We hope that everyone from freshmen to seniors and transfer students come through and talk to the reps that are here,” said Christine Goedhart-Humphrey, chair of the Kern County College Night Committee.

More than 125 colleges send representatives to Bakersfield for the event. From Fairbanks, Alaska, to Lowell, Mass., colleges from around the country are represented in the arena.

“It allows students an opportunity to come and meet with schools that they wouldn’t normally be able to travel to,” Goedhart-Humphrey said.

On Monday, local students got a taste of what life on a campus away from home might be like as they talked to the college reps about the benefits of one college over another.

“I’ve already found out so much information; it’s great,” Karen Hernandez said about 15 minutes into the event.

A Golden Valley High School senior, Hernandez said she wants to pursue a career in business. She had joined the Regional Occupational Center, which helps students prepare for the business world.

Damon Thomas, a senior basketball player at Tierra Del Sol High School, said he hoped to learn more information about being a student athlete in college.

“I feel it creeping up,” Thomas said of college. “All this college stuff has got me going everywhere.”

He said his top two choices for schools were the University of Southern California or Cal State Bakersfield.

Wherever he ends up going, he knows he wants to do more than just study; he wants to compete athletically.

“I’m coming for those college players,” he said.

But College Night gave prospective college students more than just the opportunity to choose among colleges.

They could also learn how to pay for college.

“One of the biggest problems we have right now is student loan debt because nobody is teaching our students how to plan for college,” said Alvin Tanicala, a consultant at the Heartland Institute of Financial Education.

He said the organization he works for tries to teach students methods that would ultimately save them money while attending college.

Things like choosing the correct major during freshman year, rather than junior year, can end up making a big difference, he said.

“If we can get people to think about planning rather than just funding, that’s great,” he said.

After Monday’s event, thousands of Kern County students should have their minds on both the planning and funding parts of attending college.

With college application deadlines fast approaching, the timing couldn’t be better.

You can reach Sam Morgen at 661-395-7415 or smorgen@bakersfield.com. You may also follow him on Twitter @smorgenTBC.

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