The last week in July 2016

Good morning from Toronto, described by one citizen in a Toronto Star submission in 2010 as “Canada’a mosaic city of culture and colours.” Of course colours spelt with a “u” something I had a hard time getting used to years ago when I first came to the U.S. to start grad school.

Toronto skyline July 28 2016

Toronto skyline from the ferry. July 28, 2016

This was a 5-day trip to Toronto at a much slower pace than the 4-day trip to Rome last summer to watch and listen to our Chamber singers perform.  Thank you Jen Garrett for creating this phenomenal experience for our students.  (Here is a brief mention of my Rome trip in my June 22, 2015 blog  Mark your calendars for summer 2018 and plan on heading to Sydney Australia to watch our students perform.)


So the five days involved spending time with Eisha and mom, a lot of time by the waterfront (Lake Ontario is beautiful), listening to music since the Caribana festival celebrating the music and culture of the Caribbean was getting started, checking out other sights, sounds and flavors of Toronto.  Two of my favorite restaurants, both on Yonge Street, close to Eisha’s Apartment were Scaddabush (in Italian it means “A bit of everything”) and the Red Tavern.

Twilight CN Tower July 29 2016

Twilight photo from Queens Quay July 29, 2016

I was about to brave the long lines to go up the CN Tower in the center of downtown Toronto one afternoon when a helpful staff member suggested coming back in the morning. Good advice – there was almost no one in line. The CN Tower is as elegant as the Space Needle in Seattle but three times higher at 1815 ft, and only one inch off of a perfect vertical. It took almost a minute for the elevator, travelling at about 14 mph, to reach the main observation deck, and another 45 seconds, travelling at 7 mph, to reach the upper “navette” observation deck.  After doing the first part, I lost my nerve to brave it to the upper deck, but Lauren, a security guard talked me into it.  Here is a selfie with her.


What a view of the city skyline, of the lakefront, and activity at the base of the tower! I enjoyed everything except the glass floor observation deck, which I did not go on! Here are some pictures that will give you some sense of just how high it is. It’s still the highest tower in the western hemisphere – only the Canton Tower in China and Burj Kalifa in Dubai (which I’ve seen but not been to the top) are higher.

Caribana: Friday the hotel and street were full of people in colorful dresses and feather costumes. Turns out this was the beginning of Caribana, a week-long celebration of Caribbean and African culture. The waterfront that evening was lined with large boats with parties and crowds dressed all in white or in colorful costumes.

The Harbourfront Center stage on the Queens Quay Terminal had a great band that backed a number of lead singers performing a mix of reggae and Caribbean music. I loved the renditions of Marley’s 1980 release “Everything Gonna Be Alright” (a high energy version of “Three Little Birds”) and “Feelin Hot Hot Hot”. A lot of the music I didn’t recognize, but the crowd definitely did, dancing and singing along.  Will definitely catch up on my reggae in the next few weeks. The evening on the waterfront listening to great music amidst a large crowd on land and many well-lit sailboats on the water was definitely magical.

Here is a short video that I took on my iphone of “Feelin Hot Hot Hot”

And here is Bob Marley with Everythings Gonna Be Alright.


Thank you BJ:

BJ and Sonya July 25 2016Let me take a moment to recognize the shuttle bus driver in LA, BJ who went out of her way to help mom.  She was a cheery woman who broke the rules to help this “mother” as she referred to mom.  When i thanked her she commented — “hold her hand as much as you can for as long as you can.”  BJ lost her mom a long time ago.  Here is a selfie with BJ a remarkable woman with a big heart who made me happy and more importantly took care of my mom.



BC Spotlighted in the Californian

These last two weeks has seen several pieces about Bakersfield College.  Here are some of them:

July 24, 2016: College district’s plans are ambitious, but maintianing what it has built requires it.  by Louis Amestoy  

July 23, 2016: Community Voices: Oh, the Places You’ll Go: My Life with History by Linda Esquivel, a Renegade.

Wonderful Opportunities

JoshIn partnership with The Wonderful Company and Wonderful College Prep Academy, local youngsters are taking advantage of a wonderful opportunity to get a head start on their future career path before even beginning college. Bringing real life and learning experiences together are important for our young people and it’s something this program does well.

“Wonderful Agriculture Career Prep is one of nearly 50 collaboratives across California providing tens of thousands of students with hands-on learning that blends academics with job training in industry sectors such as manufacturing, agriculture, construction, engineering, health care, computer science and many other fields where high-paying jobs await.”

Upcoming high school junior Joshua Carreon is featured in the article and I forwarded it via email to our Agriculture Faculty, Chris McCraw – this is what I received in response!

Yes, I know Josh. Really good, ambitious student. For nearly 25 years, I have been taking photos of my students when I first meet them. This allows me to have every student’s name memorized by the second class meeting! Let me introduce you to Joshua Carreon!!”

The article discussed Joshua’s work in the academy.

“He belongs to the school’s agriculture business pathway, an innovative course of study that includes agriculture science and technology in high school, college-level business classes from Bakersfield City College and a paid internship at Olam Farms, an almond grower in the region. He’s also guaranteed a job in one of the region’s agriculture companies when he graduates high school, or after college, if he decides to attend.”

Read the full article at and check out this post on my blog featuring the Ag Ventures Camp at Bakersfield College!

Agriculture Ambassadors host Collegiate Agriculture Leaders Competition

Talking about our amazing Ag faculty and staff let me share with you the event that they hosted on March 4th — the Collegiate Agriculture Leaders Spring Competition.

The BC Agriculture Ambassadors hosted the event for the first time in Bakersfield College history!

Over 100 students from Community College Ag programs as far away as Shasta College descended on our campus to compete in eight different competitions including extemporaneous public speaking, prepared public speaking, team marketing, formal sales presentation, job interview, career portfolio, discussion meet, and a Jeopardy-style event called “College Bowl”.

Teams of students sat at a long table at the front of the Forum with buzzers at hand at a light in front of each team while proctors from Cal Poly and Fresno State kept a watchful eye to make sure that no one-including the host school-had an unfair advantage.

i-Nk7g6nH-X2“That’s the bragging rights event,” BC Ag Professor Chris McCraw said. “It’s a student-run event, and I think our students get a lot of value out of dealing with the rigors of hosting this program, and our students did a great job putting this on. Our kids were the problem solvers, and they reacted well, and I think it’s an advantage to have students in those style of situations.”

The students weren’t the only ones who rose to the occasion of hosting such a dynamic competition. Professor Lindsay Ono took care of registration and day of event logistics, which is no small task.

Professor McCraw explained that “We allow students to enter multiple competitions, and that made stuff a little complicated. Professor Ono put the contest together almost magically so that 100 different students could participate in multiple competitions on the same day. We wouldn’t want those students traveling long distances to only be able to participate in one event; we wanted them to get as much as possible out of the day.”

Professor Bill Kelly took care of the prepared contests like Prepared Public Speaking and Dr. Greg Cluff managed the extemporaneous speaking portion.

BC’s Ag department rocks!


IMG_4638I’d like to take this time to thank our amazing Outreach department. Their It’s POSSIBLE! event earlier in July gave incoming students a hearty welcome, with help enrolling in classes, orientation, and a guided tour of the campus.

Our new students had the opportunity to experience how easy it can be to start an exciting pathway here at BC!

We have another exciting event coming up on August 10th, from 7 am to 5:30 pm. Renegade Fest will be an all-in-one day, where students can apply, attend orientation, complete assessment testing, complete a new student workshop, meet with a counselor to develop an abbreviated Student Education Plan, register for Fall 2016 classes, and complete Financial Aid documents.

Thank you so much to Steve Watkin and his great team in the Outreach department, as well as the Admissions & Records, Counseling, and Financial Aid department for their hard work putting this together for our students. A special shout out to the assessment staff for all their efforts t make this happen — Kalina Hill, Shelia Fuller, Juan Estrada, Terri Larner, Aracley Enriquez.   It’s sure to be a great success!

For more information, check out or call (661) 395-4276.

Vision, Voice, and Inspiration of Kern County Women


Nicole Parra, Pauline Larwood, and Mary K. Shell. Photo Credit: The Bakersfield Californian

In light of this week’s Democratic National Convention and all the discussion about women and our political voice, I was really touched by two articles in the Bakersfield Californian written by Diane Hardisty featuring Kern County women and how they’re breaking the barriers.

The first, Her-story: Kern’s trailblazing women reflect on Hillary nom, details the history of the women’s suffrage movement and tells how exactly 100 years ago, in 1916 outside the DNC, women held a silent and non-violent protest to gain equal rights to vote. She goes on to quote Sandra Larson, a Shafter resident and campaign manager for Pauline Larwood as she said, “… a woman running for president would have been inconceivable in the 1940s, when I was born.” And Hardisty mentions that today, “women now serve as heads of state in several countries, including Germany, Liberia, Norway, Chile, Bangladesh, Croatia, Poland, the Bahamas, and others.”

It’s incredibly fascinating to see how our society has evolved through the history and our story of women’s rights and equality over the past 100 years.

The second piece written by Hardisty titled, They, too, were first: Shell, Larwood, others on women in politics, takes readers on a tour to get reacquainted with a handful of these revolutionary elected leaders who happen to be local ladies – some even with ties to BC and most connected to education in Kern County. Here’s a quick list with facts and details about these incredible women:

  • The Bakersfield Californian once referred to her as “the most popular politician in Kern County history,” Mary K. Shell, was the first woman to serve as mayor of Bakersfield and the second woman serving on the Kern County Board of Supervisors. With interest in journalism, current events, and politics, she began working part-time at the Bakersfield Californian at the young age of seventeen and attended Bakersfield College. Today, she is a great supporter and contributor to BC and event sits as the Emeritus Director of the BC Foundation Board of Directors.
  • The article states that “Pauline Larwood, the first woman elected to the Kern County Board of Supervisors, knew her gender might pose a challenge when she ran in 1982, but she used her name recognition and army of supporters to defeat a large field of competitors for the 3rd District seat.” Also connected to Bakersfield College, Pauline taught as an adjunct faculty here, has been a member of the KCCD Board of Trustees Finance Committee, and was involved with the Bakersfield Women’s Conference – which also began at Bakersfield College!
  • With 20 years of experience teaching in the Bakersfield City School District, Barbara Patrick “went on to serve 12 years in the office, joined 5th District Supervisor Mary K. Shell on the board. But after Shell’s retirement in 1997, Patrick was the lone woman supervisor until 2007.” In the article, she is quoted by saying ““It is a shame that more women do not aspire to public office,” she said. “We have had some excellent role models locally on school boards, the various city councils and the Board of Supervisors.”
  • Senator Jean Fuller holds an AA degree from Bakersfield College, which she earned in 1970 before launching a successful career. She served for more than 30 years as an educator and as Superintendent of BCSD when she was elected in 2006. We’re proud to call Senator Jean Fuller a Renegade.

Not mentioned in the article, but worth adding to my quick list is

  • Leticia Perez, our 5th District Kern County Supervisor is a third generation Bakersfield resident coming from a family with United States Veterans. It makes sense that she works as an avid supporter for current combat vets suffering from PTSD. Straight from her official biography, it states, “Leticia was raised alongside a dozen foster children and comes from a family who have been dedicated to public service for more than forty years in Kern County. Following in her parents’ footsteps, Leticia has been active in political and social issues, as well as Philanthropic efforts from the time she could walk.” She works relentlessly to help to residents of Arvin with essentials like jobs and education and Mary Jo Pasek hinted that there’s a big announcement coming – a gift to our BC vets to be presented next month.  Leticia also helped secure the funding the the Game Changer project at Arvin High School.  Check out my August 2, 2015 blog post at
  • Dolores Huerta, though not a politician, spoke at the Democratic Convention on Thursday afternoon. This phenomenal woman is the Co-Founder of the United Farm Workers, along with the great Cesar Chavez, and this woman has devoted her life for the betterment of hardworking farm laborers, immigrants, and women. Her legacy of tireless advocacy is one that is truly inspiring and has made a difference for the people of Bakersfield and our entire country.
  • Grace_Van_Dyke_Bird-abcdef-8x10Last and fittingly, I’d like to also mention Grace Van Dyke Bird as a woman of vision, the first President of Bakersfield College, and the first woman to ever lead a public community college in California. She wrote in her credo, titled “The Basic Purposes of Administration in Education” about the administrator’s job of creating the best learning environment by building and showing trust in the people she leads. With this philosophy, you can see why she was widely respected on campus and in our city as an educator, the original administrator at BC, and an inspiration to all.  I am sure that Grace Van Dyke Bird would agree that…. It is a great time to be a Renegade!


Sonya at the Aspen Grove July 28 2016


That’s all for now.  

Until next Saturday.

With much Renegade Pride and Collegiality.  

sonya ….. at the Aspen Grove at Queens Quay Terminal, Toronto, Canada (July 28, 2016….a special day)

Tagged: , , , , ,

4 thoughts on “The last week in July 2016

  1. Lisa Kent July 30, 2016 at 4:46 pm Reply

    Reading your blog makes me so proud to part of such an incredible, innovative, and progressive and institution!

    • bcpresident July 31, 2016 at 8:21 am Reply

      Me too. I feel incredibly lucky to be part of BC. And usually my sign off is “luckiest and happiest college president.” And thank you Lisa for all that you do for BC and the young Latinas in our community.

  2. Nick Strobel July 30, 2016 at 9:51 pm Reply

    In my grad school days at the Univ of Washington, I never made it up to the Space Needle because it was a bit much on a grad student’s salary. However, when my wife and I were in Sydney (Australia) ten years ago, we ate in the restaurant at the top of the Sydney Tower. Now that you’ve done the CN Tower, the Sydney Tower in 2018 with the Chamber Singers should be a piece of cake. I’m glad that you included the “Vision, Voice, and Inspiration of Kern County Women” article in your blog. I hope the Californian will write an article like that about you in your 20th or 25th year as president of BC. 🙂

    • bcpresident July 31, 2016 at 8:31 am Reply

      Lol. Will definitely do the Sydney Towers. I am sure you and Lisa have blocked your calendar for Summer 2018 to join the Chamber Singers as well. Maybe we can all do an extravagant dinner at the top of the Sydney tower.

      And btw, remember it was your encouragement that made me get on that flight and head to Rome in June 2015 even though it appeared that the forces were working against me. Thank you!

Leave a Reply