Nearly five months ago, I took the leap from a job I loved (working in economic development) into the role of executive director of the Bakersfield College Foundation. I was excited about the opportunity because helping strengthen BC’s connections in the community (especially with local businesses and industry) would allow me to impact Kern County’s economic growth from a different angle.

Being new to higher education, I did a lot of research into community college foundations — their history, how they operate, and the importance of a foundation working hand-in-hand with college administration and various departments.

But, as they say, you can plan ahead all you want, but “you don’t know what you don’t know.” Indeed, I have had some surprises (with many more ahead, no doubt!). Of all that I’ve experienced so far, I have been most amazed by just how much of the college’s programming relies on community contributions coming in through the BC Foundation.

From my vantage point, I get to see it all because I sign all requisitions submitted by various departments at Bakersfield College. Of course, the greatest single category of support is in the way of scholarships. Nearly $500,000 in scholarship money was distributed to more than 500 students this school year. That wasn’t a surprise to me, though, considering most of our students are among the lowest socioeconomic levels in Kern County. In fact, establishment of scholarships was the impetus for creating the BC Foundation back in 1975.

Today, the Foundation touches students’ lives in innumerable ways, going far beyond the typical (yet still critical) scholarship.

Some of the Foundation’s 400 funds augment the classroom or extracurricular experience by covering costs not eligible for KCCD funding, or when help is needed due to budget limitations. Just recently, the Foundation funded the purchase of music rights for the Choral Music Program, fish food for the Early Childhood Education Program, uniforms for the Women’s Golf Team, and chef hats for the culinary program. We never know what will come our way at the Foundation!

Upon opening the office on my first day of work, imagine my surprise when I was greeted by two medical torso models for anatomy class. They were funded by the Foundation’s Renegade Innovation Fund (RIF), which awards up to $100,000 each year to support student activities, classroom equipment, travel, and much more. In FY 18, RIF funds were used to purchase 26 Nikon microscopes, allowing the Anatomy & Physiology Department to offer an additional section of biology (allowing pre-nursing students to fulfill prerequisites in a timely manner).

The Foundation has also helped cover travel costs for students in the Umoja program (to attend leadership conferences and to tour Historically Black Colleges & Universities across the country), while we helped the BC Chamber Singers travel to Australia (where they performed at the Sydney Opera House).

A quick visit to the Foundation’s website shows some of the many avenues for supporting students’ dreams of achieving a college degree. One fund is the Renegade Pantry, which helps ensure students have access to food, even when their funds run short. Similarly, the BC Student Emergency fund was created to provide funding (through a referral process) to students finding themselves in a financial bind that may cause them to choose between education and another, competing, priority. Funds like these grow and make an impact even when the smallest of contributions are made. Every dollar makes a difference!

If you have benefited from the pursuit of higher education — or if you wish you had — I encourage you to think about how you can impact the future of one or more BC students. This holiday season, consider giving the gift of education. Visit www.supportbc.org to see how you can help. Truly, it will be the gift that keeps on giving.

Cheryl Scott joined the BC Foundation in July, after 15 years working with the Kern Economic Development Corp. & Foundation.