Extraordinary stories: Our students, community, and faculty

Good morning Bakersfield.  It is Saturday, August 6th….Kevin Charette of KGET happily told us on the morning news that we will not have triple digit high temperatures this week…and a fabulous day to be a Renegade.

Like all of you, Rio, is on my mind.  What a spectacular opening ceremony at the Olympic games in Rio.  If you are tweeting don’t forget #Rio2016.  Check it out at

https://www.olympic.org/news/brazil-takes-pride-in-spectacular-rio-2016-opening

 

 

Here are a few excerpts from the website:

Reflecting that beauty, a stunning Opening Ceremony depicted the rich and complex history and culture of Brazil. Fireworks and laser-lit dancers provided a suitably arresting start…..

The story of Brazil was then retold in a stunning showcase, beginning with the birth of life itself, depicted on a huge screen on the stadium floor, and continuing with a representation of the country’s rainforest and the forming of three huge “ocas” or huts to symbolise the indigenous people who call that amazing and precious habitat their home.

…..

The appearance of Gisele Bundchen, strutting out to the sound of “The Girl From Ipanema”, marked the start of “Bossa”, celebrating the curves and sensuality of Brazil. Pop then took centre stage, as the voice of the favelas, funk, samba, “passinho” and popular Brazilian music filled the air, while breakdance, capoeira and a host of the country’s regional variations of dance also put in appearances. Some 1,500 dancers then arrived on the scene for with a mass dance-off, as Brazilian singer Regina Casé urged everyone in the stadium to get on their feet.

Here is the English version of the song Girl from Ipanema that won the 1965 Grammy Song of the Year, sung up Astrud Gilberto the wife of Joao Gilberto who sang the original Portuguese version.

Here is the Portuguese version that I could find on Youtube with Tom Jobim and Joao Gilberto reuniting for this performance.  Beautiful.

 

If we are distracted from our work these next two weeks, we will just Blame it on Rio.

I love Saturday mornings.  Life seems spacious, uncomplicated, no immediate deadlines and I find myself moving out of “drive mode” which is constant and necessary in advancing the work of the college to a more “neutral mode”….I like it….i like it a lot.

Mondays on the other hand are a different story.  We often hear about the dreaded “case of the Mondays” or the “Monday Blues” and how we just can’t roll out of bed without that cherished cup of coffee– but I found some inspiration and perspective for Monday, which I hope just might spur some enthusiasm. Let’s show some love to Mondays!

Mondays

🙂

Motivation on Monday (8/1) Morning

TGIM – that’s what I’m saying! I started 8/1 the Monday after returning from Toronto, Canada, with a brief conversation with JP Lake who is exploring ways to support our community in Oildale by providing access to rehabilitation for those battling drug addiction.  That prompted me pinging Monika Scott and Earl Parsons, two bright minds who work with Shannon Musser, to quickly pull together some information for me.  And, as usual, they came through with flying colors.  Thank you Monika and Earl.

In addition to data here is a personal story that Earl shared with me.

Hello Ms. Christian, This is Earl Parsons. Monika asked me to look up some information about drug abuse in the unincorporated community of Oildale. There was a lot of data from Kern County in general and the Bakersfield area but we seem to be seriously lacking any comprehensive information via scholarly articles about drug use in Oildale and how that affects education rates and contributes to institutionalization and the school-to-prison pipeline. I did manage to find some information, however.

In the future, I think it would be worthwhile to commission our own research and canvass the community for some independent investigation, since there seem to be little to no secondary sources for the data you’re seeking. Speaking anecdotally, I grew up in different trailer parks around Beardsley Avenue and my mother was in and out of jail for meth use throughout my adolescence. A lot of the kids growing up in that area have no opportunities, teen pregnancy is astronomical and elementary school teachers have an uphill battle just getting their kids to come to school, let alone preparing them for being contributing members of a post-industrial economy.

Most of my friends from the neighborhood had dropped out of school and started using meth daily by 7th or 8th grade. I’m the only person I know of from that whole area to graduate from college, and I was fortunate enough to have the personal motivation (and stubbornness) to succeed, as well as the outside support from my family, or I would’ve never realized my full potential.

I still live in Oildale and I take the bus to work every day. A few weeks ago, my bus stopped off in front of a part of Oildale called The Pit, which is a really tough apartment complex on Roberts Lane. The bus picked up a woman I presumed was attending summer school here at BC, because she had a piece of white particle board with some kind of organizational structure outline for what I assumed was a Business class. I didn’t know her, but it made me very emotional seeing someone from that neighborhood who was trying to empower herself into a better lifestyle, and I wanted to walk over to her and tell her that I was proud of her and to keep working hard because I was in her position and I made it out.

Anyway, I’ve probably spent too much time writing about this but it’s something I feel very passionately about. I hope you have a great day, and I hope your research helps create the change that community needs.”

It’s stories like this and the message behind it that continue to fuel everything we do at Bakersfield College. The struggle is real… and the challenges are hard, but our students are strong and the people of this community care. When we work together and do our part to support our students, cycles can be broken. Hardships that are familiar today – don’t need to be a staple of tomorrow. Education is the key and its transformative power does change lives. This is why Mondays are important – Let’s tackle the work we were born to do. We can do something remarkable.

This is the day to be back at our passion. Breathing new life into our projects. We are conduits on innovation, imagination, and inspiration. It’s Monday, and we can’t wait to get started.”

We are BC!

A great Tuesday

I started my Tuesday morning watching Steve Watkin being interviewed by Jason Galvin on KGET promoting Renegade fest on August 12th.  Jason was so enthusiastic and was fully engaged in his interview with Steve.  Thank you Jason.

Dropped in and spent 30 minutes with the Summer Bridge group.  Thank you Kimberly Bligh for leading this effort.  Connected with some of our new faculty like Marcelyn Allen and incoming students.  Here is Marcelyn Allen, Michele Bresso’s daughter full of enthusiasm and passion for what she does.  The other faculty leading the session, Teresa McAllister, invited me to join an activity with chocolates that determines your personality type depending on the chocolate you like.  I was grouped with the Krackels and you can see us krackels here in all our glory.

Also thank you to the student peer mentors Kenneth Mireles, Melodee Medrano and Junior Menchaca.  Loved watching our counselor Mark Osea and Advisor Isabel Casteneda working with the students.

National Night Out

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The BC campus welcomed hundreds of visitors on campus during Tuesday evenings National Night Out. This annual event “promotes police-community partnerships and neighborhood camaraderie to make our neighborhoods safer, better places to live.” The weather was not only warm – it was blistering “Bakersfield” hot, but that didn’t stop hundreds of residents from coming out to meet and support our heroic emergency first responders and public service men and women.

National Night OutBPD’s specific and unique branches were on-site, including the CHP, the K9 Unit, Special Enforcement Unit, Bomb Squad, S.W.A.T. Team, and Rangers. Children of all ages eagerly interacted in a hands-on manner by taking a tour of the vehicles, trying on special equipment, and asking questions about daily duties and activities.

More than ever and in light of recent tragedies, this event has special significance – The event gave an exclusive chance for these branches to interact with and educate people of all ages and in response, attendees saw firsthand just how much these departments give back to the local community.

My wish going forward, inspired in part by this event, is that Bakersfield College continues to be a staple in this community; One which has the campus, buildings, and grounds to facilitate these types of important community and bond building experiences. As stated in BC’s core values

we have built and continue to build an environment in which all members participate as community through democratic engagement.

Thank you to all who came out to show support to our men and women working for public safety. And I can’t forget a special thank you to Mary Jo Pasek, who always works tirelessly in her efforts to utilize Bakersfield College in bringing our community together. For a video report of this event, check out the article at Bakersfieldnow.com.

Thank you Karen Goh for the photo gallery http://tinyurl.com/jok8cam

RENx Talks – Brief Talks, Big Ideas

RENx.jpg

Many of us on campus are familiar with TED talks… so much so, that we have our own RENEGADE talks (thank you Andrea Thorson and Todd Coston) as a mini campus-wide tribute, each year in April. Our staff, faculty, even some students come together to prepare a set of talks that are (1.) short (2.) concise and (3.) pack one powerful punch in a small amount of time. TED Talks are known for Ideas worth spreading and the library of 10-20 minute videos is nothing short of astounding. Topics range from almost anything you can think of and they’re educational, powerful, and motivational. One could even argue, if you watch one a day, it just might be… the best 13 minutes of your 24-hour day!

As a mini-series to these TED-like talks, Communications Faculty, Helen Acosta, hosted a spin off on Wednesday afternoon featuring her summer COMM B4 students. It was appropriately titled RENx – just as TEDx is a smaller scale of TED talks. I had the joy of sitting quietly in the back of the theater when lights dimmed and the first student took the stage. He was poised and enthusiastic as he conveyed a perfectly crafted message, not only with words. He artistically included body language as a reinforcement to the strong words spoken. His voice was a tool filled with passion and emotion and he swayed towards the audience, engaging us to not miss a single word. Interestingly, his topic was the transformative power of critical listening – and I don’t think this was a coincidence.

It’s hard to not listen intently to such passionate and charismatic students. One mentioned how far he has come in the past 4 weeks and delivered the message that life’s difficult moments can be a gift if one focuses on doing the right thing, and another student spoke of finding her passion through Taco Bell, leaving us with the message to “Live Más.”

Topics ranged from self-identity, faith, life, and passions… but, the very best part was witnessing our BC Renegades being honest and genuine about relevant issues, speaking on them with poise, elegance, and confidence. Our students are definitely bringing their A-game. Watch out world! These Renegades are coming for you!

Bakersfield, this is what our faculty do for our students at BC. Create the best learning environment for all of our students not just some of them.  Helen Acosta, you rock!

 

Wednesday (8/3) Evening – We Celebrate a Tribute to Jack

Jack2.jpgHe was described as “a teacher who was willing to learn from a student” and that’s just scratching the surface when it comes to describing his large and humble heart. Familiar faces gathered at the Indoor Theater on Wednesday evening to commemorate the life and impact of social studies professor, John “Jack” Edward Brigham, who passed away in July.

BrighamRetireesThe event had a great turnout, which was a wonderful testament to an outstanding man. I had the opportunity to see a few of our faculty retirees at the event – Margaret Lyman, Jack Hernandez and Sally Hill. 

 

 

Jack1A well-respected group of speakers took turns on the stage as they shared memories, pronouncing the love Jack had for BC, his students, and accomplishing the greatest common good. Brigham’s friend, Milt Younger, led the honors, praising his activism, philanthropy and passion for politics. Mayor Harvey Hall, Abdallah Ben Hamallah, Bob Severs, John Hefner, Cory Carter, Jorge Guillen, Dolores Huerta, Judy Sims-Barlow, Javier Valdez, Alex Dominguez, and Randal Beeman followed by describing how Brigham had changed their lives and motivated them to be better people. To ensure that Brigham’s legacy of inspiring young people in Kern County continues, a scholarship will be established in his name.

Brigham_JavierJavier Valdez is a former Bakersfield College student who is now at CSUB. During his time at Bakersfield College, 2 years ago, he was one of our student journalists involved with the Renegade Rip. The Renegade Rip is an amazing opportunity for our students. It has been in existence since 1929, and has grown to include a 24/7 online edition in addition to 7-8 biweekly publications a year. Our students have received internships and scholarships as they continue their studies after their time at Bakersfield College.

I would also like to recognize our BC staff who made this gathering possible – Earl Parsons, technical support. Kevin Ginger, lighting technician, Mary Jo Pasek for her support in many ways, Nicky Damania for organizing all the student volunteers, Dylan Wang and Dyann Serrato for taking photos, and Tarina Perry who managed this entire event.

I’d like to share the remarks from Randy Beeman, who represented BC faculty, admisnitrators and staff at the event:

I had the honor of being Jack’s office mate for almost 15 years. Jack was also my neighbor and a surrogate uncle to my children as we lived two blocks apart, and I had a key to his house from the first day I arrived at BC. My kids saw his condo as this mysterious place full of fascinating bric-a-brac and books, books, and more books.

Jack was actually on the hiring committee that brought me from Kansas to Bakersfield College via UNLV. Along with two Mexican Americans, an African American, and a slick looking hippie, there was this guy on the committee with cowboy boots, a bolo tie, and a pocket protector. I thought “this must be the department conservative…probably a right winger who listens to Rush Limbaugh and thinks Ronald Reagan was our greatest President.” I sure read that one wrong.

Over the years I heard a million stories, a million times, of our friend Jack’s most interesting life. My favorite stories were his battles as a junior high teacher in the most impoverished area of the city during the civil rights era. Once Jack took his basketball team to a tournament in a local city. He had to take the team in his car, which meant that he had to take half the team and return to Bakersfield for the other half.

When he got back to the tournament the kids he had left behind were downcast and some were in tears. They related to Jack that they had been called the n-word, and that the opposing coach encouraged his players to taunt Jack’s kids. It speaks volumes about the students respect for Jack that they didn’t lash out in anger. They didn’t want to disappoint him.

Jack was ordinarily a sportsman. Each kid got to play an equal amount, and no running up the score – but on this day, Jack unleashed his best player, an eventual college star, and his troops crushed the other team mercilessly. When Jack got home he began to write letters, as was his style, and within a week the racist coach was removed from his job.

That story is the essence of Jack – kind and composed, but underneath a furious revolutionary who never stopped fighting injustice and unfairness. When I would walk in the office at 7 am and the only music playing was the sound of Jack typing like a maniac, I knew that some administrator or politician was on the receiving end of one of Jack’s jeremiads. Suffice to say, in my time as his office mate and friend, he won most of his battles, and in the process students would be treated in a more ethical manner or a mismanaged system would be corrected.

Jack was a kind and serious man, but joy pervaded his personality. We would spend our free time talking (and sometimes fighting) about the American west, Bob Dylan, the Beatles, afrocubop, the mendacity of Richard Nixon, the end of nationalism and so on. Jack’s optimistic and giving spirit was infectious. I became a better teacher and a better person via my ongoing tutorial with this well-read, well-travelled, extraordinary individual. Just last month he wrote me about ‘inappropriate comments regarding Hillary Clinton” that I had reposted in haste on Facebook. I deleted the post, post haste.

Everyone knows that Jack was a font of generosity. Early on in my tenure at BC, I would be on the phone with my wife, talking about how we would pay for the kid’s braces and still manage the Catholic school tuition, or whatever bill or crisis was next…I would come out of class a few hours later and a check for $500 or $1000 would be on my desk. The only repayment expected is that I would do my best as a scholar and teacher.

Jack made people, like me, feel like they were special and capable of great deeds, but what Jack really taught me was that it is the small things that count – a compliment to someone feeling down or shy, giving away a material possession to someone who might enjoy it more, an encouraging word to an aspiring young artist. Jack was a complete gentleman, genteel, a lover of nature, animals, and even people as well.

If I were to channel Jack today, I would say that if he was a great man who could see farther than others it was because he was [audience ‘standing on the shoulders of giants.”] Milt Younger, Bob Severs, Corey Carter, the big guy Abdallah and Dolores of course above all….these giants of Jack’s life and other devoted friends all testify to a life well lived, a life worthy of emulation. Jack Brigham you are, in a phrase you loved so much, “presente!”

Jack’s life story and accomplishments are detailed in his obituary and I encourage you to take a few moments to read it. He was an accomplished, beloved, and outstanding leader who continually thought of others before himself.

Quoted from his obit, “Jack is in hopes his friends and role models will do something special for a person, group or organization in the spirit of integrity and civic unity.”

Let’s go out today and do something special – something extraordinary in honor of Jack.

enjoying gift from art department feb 14 2014

 

That’s all for now.  

Until next Saturday.

With much Renegade Pride and Collegiality.  

sonya 

(The Art department certainly knows the way into my heart)

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One thought on “Extraordinary stories: Our students, community, and faculty

  1. […] The Bakersfield Police Department is a great partner of Bakersfield College. Check out my past blog when I showcased the National Night Out on August 6, 2016. […]

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