Enriching Lives through Campus & Community


This was one of the sights to be seen at last night’s Grand Opening Ceremony for the 1st Annual Arvin Hispanic Month Celebration. It was met with energy and excitement for the unveiling of the new Garden in The Sun Park for families of the Arvin community.

Good morning Bakersfield.  It is Saturday, September 23…a fabulous day to be a Renegade….a fabulous week to be a Renegade….a fabulous year to be a Renegade.  Thank you Bakersfield. Thank you Kern County for always being there for your college.

Assemblyman Rudy Salas, Alfonso Noyola, City Manager, Jose Gurrola Jr., Mayor City of Arvin , Jazmin Robles, Mayor Pro Tem City of Arvin, Erika Madrigal, Council Member City of Arvin, Gabriella Martinez, Council Member City of Arvin Jess Ortiz, Council Member City of Arvin, all touched base on the outlook of the City of Arvin and the added value to the community.

Nate Meeks, Quad Knopf Engineering spoke to the effort and design of the Park itself.
Assembly member Rudy Salas also spoke and shared his perspective of the surrounding Kern Communities, and the value of bringing in a positive influence.  It was great having BC and KCCD represented in great strength.  Chancellor Tom Burke and Trustee Bill Thomas came out to support the event.

Kern Community College District Board Trustee,  Bill Thomas, spoke last, announcing KCCD plans for the new Bakersfield College Satellite campus and painting a picture of the beautiful Kern mountains creating a perfect setting for incoming students. The ROTC color-guard led a presentation of the flag, and there was a ribbon-cutting for the park, followed by a community parade with the Arvin Police Department, folkloric dancing, and the chanting of “We are BC” heard in the background.


Bakersfield College presence continued through the evening with multi-department collaborations from Delano Campus, Outreach, Student Life, EOPS, Counseling and Adult Education. Thank you to all our volunteers and BC staff who showed up to support BC, including Abel Guzman, Endee Grijalva, Nicky Damania, Steve Watkin, Beth Harrison, Alyse Braaten, Dinorah Castro, Amalia Ojeda, Stephanie Baltazar, Jesse Oropeza and more! Thank you Abel Guzman, Jennifer Marden, and Bill Potter for the planning that went into this effort.


DACA: Now What? A Community Forum

A DACA Community Forum reached approximately 300 students and community members on Thursday evening. A team of six immigration and defense attorneys volunteered their time to address questions regarding the recent announcement of a decision to rescind the Deferred Action for  Childhood Arrivals (DACA) initiative.

Panelists at the DACA Community Forum

Panelists at the DACA Community Forum

My heartfelt thanks to our panelists:

  •        H.A. Sala
  •        Win Eaton
  •        Vanessa Sanchez
  •        Edyta Grant
  •        Andrew Fishkin, and
  •        Sarah Rice

Assemblyman Rudy Salas was also in attendance. A very special ‘thank you’ to Mr. Salas for his participation and contribution.


After the panel, our incredible panelists made themselves available for individual questions and answers. Here is Andrew Fishkin taking time with one of the attendees.

I can’t thank everyone enough for providing this opportunity for our students and our community.

A recording of the panel discussion is available here.

A big thank you to Dr. Manny Mourtzanos for making this happen.

Distinguished Speaker Series

After the community forum, we invited student leaders to stay and listen to Yemeni grad student and public speaker, Orubba Almansouri to tell the story of how she was able to accomplish her educational goals while honoring her Muslim community’s faith and traditions.

Joe Salvadar and Orubba Almansouri

Joe Salvadar and Orubba Almansouri

Joe Saldivar was introduced Orubba, whose impassioned speech as the Salutatorian at the City College of New York’s commencement ceremonies led to an invitation to speak at last year’s United States of Women conference by none other than former First Lady Michelle Obama. From a young age, Orubba had a passion for learning, even though the tribe where her family comes from in Yemen traditionally forbids teaching girls. But after years of demonstrating to her family that her pursuit of education won’t lead her to reject her traditions or identity, she said, her family became her biggest supporters, even escorting her to speaking engagements in accordance with Muslim law. “My journey was never an individual one,” Orubba said. “I am taking my family and my community on this journey with me, whether they like it or not.”

While she had to learn the art of compromise to accomplish her goals, Orubba has provided a blueprint for other Muslim women to follow in her footsteps if they choose. “The best change, for me, is change that comes gradually,” she said. “Small changes, when sustained, can uplift generations. It infiltrates the system until it becomes the system itself. “Changing our attitudes toward education will only benefit us and our communities,” she said. Now a graduate student at NYU, Orubba has started working on a project about the influence of the Muslim mother/daughter relationship in boosting Arabic literacy rates among adult Muslim women.

Thank you to our fantastic Office of Student Life for organizing this event with such an important national figure.

230th Birthday of the U.S. Constitution

Did you know that U.S. Constitution was created on September 17, 1787, now celebrating its 230th birthday? Each year on Constitution Day, the Kern County Superintendent of Schools, Mary Barlow and the Kern County Bar Association including Bonnie Thompson, Executive Director, organize an opportunity for local legal professionals and educators to speak to elementary students about the Constitution, its history, and application for kids.

This year, Manny Mourtzanos was invited to speak to over 100 students in the 4th and 5th grade at Beardsley Elementary School. Many thanks to Teresa Twisselman, KCSOS Coordinator of English and Language Arts and Tammy Barrera,Principal at Beardsley Elementary for making this incredible event possible.

Bakersfield College is very grateful for strong professional relationships with community partners such as KCSOS and KCBA.

Manny Mourtzanos Presenting

College Night

On September 11, BC was at the 18th Annual Kern County College Night at the Rabobank Convention Center. Over 100 BC staff, faculty, administrators, and students were there to represent the college, surpassing our representation from last year!

Over the course of the evening, students and parents had the opportunity to inquire about the academic and student support programs offered at BC. From the large crowd at the convention center, over 1,300 submitted an interest card requesting additional information from the college. BC is a vital option for our Kern County residents, and it definitely showed on this day! A special thanks to Bakersfield College’s Outreach team (Ashlea, Debi, Josie, Manuel, Pedro, Roseanne, and Savannah), led by Director Steven Watkin, for putting this event together. We Are BC!

College Night 2017

Child Development Center

The start of the fall semester has been busy for our childcare children and their parents. There are currently 133 students enrolled in our seven classrooms.  I’m told there are still a few openings for three and four year old’s if you know any student parents who need child care. We were very happy to see our Public Safety Department ensuring the safety of our arriving children on Monday, August 21.  Our Department of Public Safety is incredible.

CDC Crossing Guard Public Safety

All of our teachers are required to have updated CPR Training so in early August many of staff members came on a Saturday to participate in pediatric First Aid and CPR training provided by our partners at CAPK Head Start. And on September 14, KAPK also provided a petting zoo for our children to enjoy after their parents met with their teachers to get to know each other.

Last Week at The Renegade Football Game

At last Saturday’s game against Riverside, the BC Renegades honored Jonathan Garcia by displaying his Jersey on the sidelines.

Jonathan Garcia's JerseyAnd the BC Choir sang the Star Spangled Banner. You have to take a listen.

Thank you Dr. Kimberly Bligh for the video.

Trustee Romeo Agbalog and family were at the game and, and graciously agreed when Francis Mayer and Vance Palm invited him to be the half-time guest.

Romeo Agbalog and Vance Palm half time Sep 16 2017

Vance Palm, Trustee Romeo Agbalog

Romeo Agbalog and family Sep 16 2017

Dr. Zav Dadabhoy, Trustee Romeo Agbalog, daughter Victora, Lily Agbalog, Jennifer Achan, Kushnur Dadabhoy


What I love most about Renegade Athletics is that it is about family and friends. In the photo above is Trustee Agbalog, his wife Lily, daughter Victoria.

Here are the great nephews of our Athletics Director Sandi Taylor Brody Breitweiser (6) and Aidan Breitweiser (4) during and after Renegade Football.

This Week on Facebook

I’m the luckiest and happiest college president ever, and BC students always inspire me.  This week on Facebook, I saw our BC Pre-Med Club inviting fellow Renegades to their club meeting on Thursday. The Pre-Med Club at BC takes the hopes and dreams of students interested in all aspects of medicine and turn them into realities. PMC addresses the crisis our country faces of a shortage of doctors by giving our members opportunities to excel. Their mission is to solidify the decision and assist students’ journeys towards a future in medicine. PMC’s goal is to help our community in whatever way they can, which not only includes the healing professions they choose, but also volunteering and offering time for great causes. Can you see why I say I’m the luckiest and happiest college president ever?


This Week on Twitter

Grimmway Farms hosted an internship event for students on Tuesday in the Fireside Room as part of the Bakersfield Career Series. I saw a flurry of social media about this great event. Students interested in agriculture, business, food science and industrial technology got to learn about Grimmways’ hiring, application and recruiting processes while networking with important business leaders in the community. Thank you Heather Baltis, Chris McCraw, and Pam Gomez for the great posts!

The Maker Space

The Maker Space in the Faculty Technology lab is up and running.  The Academic Technology team, including Bill Moseley, Matt Jones, and Pam Rivers is kicking off this space with 3D printing workshops open to all faculty. This is a very cool new addition!

TailGade Coming Soon!

TailGade logo

Homecoming is right around the corner on October 14th. It will be a day filled with all things Renegade. I am looking forward to TailGade! What is TailGade you ask? It is the new name for the BC Alumni BBQ. TailGade will take place from 3:00pm-6:00pm, before the Homecoming game against Moorpark and will be a great way to start the celebration. Local favorite, Mento Buru will be playing their mix of Ska, Reggae, Mambo, Jazz and World Beat Dance Sounds. A delicious NY Steak lunch expertly prepared by Fred’s BBQ Factory is included and there will be beer and wine available for purchase. Your ticket to TailGade will also get you into the game. This is a community event and you don’t need to be alumni to attend. Come join old friends, make new friends and enjoy a wonderful time. Tickets are available through Vallitix.

Jess Nieto

I received news from Corny Rodriguez on Friday morning about the passing of local legend, Jess Nieto. Gonzalo Santos at CSUB, sent the following email:

Bakersfield just lost its most persistent and dedicated veteran activist, our preeminent Chicano educator, founder of Chicano Studies at BC in the 1970s, a tireless community organizer, an advocate and champion of international and local just causes since the 1960s, including the Chicano movement and the historic farm worker strikes and boycotts. He was someone that built bridges of understanding and solidarity with the peoples of China, Cuba, Chile, El Salvador, Venezuela, and Mexico. He was also a devoted husband and loving family man who generously mentored generations of our local Latino youth, a comrade in the trenches of the immigration movement, and a co-founder of the formidable coalition that organized the historic immigrant marches of 2006 in Bakersfield (the largest ever).

His family roots – the Nietos – go back to the Californio settlers of what is today Long Beach, California. Their rancho home, which prior to the U.S. annexation managed that entire area, still stands and is a museum. He drew great strength from knowing his family history before and after the Anglos dispossessed them and usurped their land.

He had a Ph.D. in Anthopology, was a learned scholar with a sharp, cosmopolitan mind, but never flouted it. He was the most formidable but humble of public intellectuals in our area.
He was also my “travieso” friend, who I greatly enjoyed visiting at his home with his life-long compañera and wife Peggy, and spend evenings plotting how best to counter the entrenched legacy of apartheid in Bakersfield still visible today, and the flawed imperial foreign policy of this country, still wrecking so much havoc in the world.

For above all, Jess was an internationalist, a citizen of the world, loyal only to social justice and human understanding.  I will greatly miss him. I am honored and grateful to have known him.

Here is a Facebook post from Prof. Oliver Rosales

Jesse Nieto Sep 2017

I found this great picture of Jess Nieto and me at the gym 21 months ago, Jan 2016, in the gym.  It was just wonderful talking to him and hearing all the stories of some of BC’s defining moments.  Check out the post at https://sonyachristianblog.com/tag/jess-nieto/

Jess Nieto and Sonya Christian Jan 9 2016

Sonya Christian, Jess Nieto



This week I presented, along with Dr. Darla Cooper, in San Diego at the NALEO policy conference.  This was my first time at NALEO and I got to appreciate the quality of the work that they do.  Their website describes the organization:

NALEO Educational Fund is the nation’s leading non-profit, non-partisan organization that facilitates full Latino participation in the American political process, from citizenship to public service.

Trustee Romeo Agbalog attended the conference.  Here he is with Chancellor Eloy Oakley, who was the opening speaker at the conference.

Eloy Oakley Romeo Agbalog Sep 22 2017

Chancellor Eloy Oakley, Trustee Romeo Agbalog

It was great to hear from Michele Siqueiros, CEO of the Campaign for College Opportunities (CCO).  Talking about CCO, thank you Linda Vasquez for the photos you snapped of me presenting.

I enjoyed presenting with the fabulous Darla Cooper.  We had fun and I think the audience did too.

Darla Cooper and Sonya Christian NALEO

Our dedicated faculty

Dr. Deborah Rosenthal, one of our new Chemistry faculty is just tireless in her outreach to students in middle school and high school.  Getting students to think about Science in their future.  Dr. Rosenthal was excited when she shared with me that one of the BC students whispered to her as they walked into the middle school classroom–“They remember our names!”  The Standard Middle School kids were yelling out hellos as the BC team walked in.  I wondered how Debbie finds time to do all this…she said “no matter how tired I am on Friday afternoon, this is supercool for everyone.”  You see why I am the luckiest and happiest college president ever?


Dr. Jennifer Garret‘s post on Facebook

.Choir Sep 19 2017 Ready to sing in honor of Jonathan Garcia

Tonight in Chamber and last week in College Choir we were visited by members of the 1965 Bakersfield College Choir that won first place at the Eisteddfod Choral festival in Wales. They also sang for the Pope and the president of the United States. It was inspiring to hear their words. It caused me to reflect on the choirs I am fortunate to work with. Last week College Choir lost one of our members to a car accident. They immediately responded by wanting to honor him. And so since he also played football we learned the National Anthem in one day and most of the choir rearranged their schedule so they could be at the football game to honor our member who is now blessing lives in another place.

Chamber Singers gives and gives and I only ask for more. From 4 hour rehearsals, to sectionals, to ridiculous memorization, and trying to raise $140,000! Why do we do this thing called music? Because it’s who we are and how we express ourselves. It allows us to say things that cannot be said, feel things that cannot otherwise be felt, and share our deepest desires, greatest joys, and most bitter disappointments. Music is one of the greatest gifts of life. The best part is sharing it with these amazing people and then getting to share it with the world. Music is truly living.

Choir with Ramona Gia and Mrilyn Wilson Sep 19 2017.jpg


Kern Literacy Event:

The Kern Literacy Council held their “Read for Success Breakfast” this week on September 21st at Hodel’s Country Dining. It was a wonderful event with delegates attending from both local and state agencies in support of literacy in Kern County. Attendees included Senator Jean Fuller, KCCD Chancellor, Tom Burke, KCCD Vice Chancellor, John Means, and delegates from multiple community supporters and political constituencies who represent Kern County.



Kimberly Bligh, BC faculty director, Senator Jean Fuller, and Isabel Castenada, BC Education Advisor enjoyed catching up on BC Pathways initiative

Dr. Kimberly Bligh, Senator Jean Fuller, Isabel Caseaneda

The Kern Literacy Council‘s mission is “Empowering individuals to improve their quality of life through literacy education.” Programs include Adult Basic Education, English as a Second Language, GED Preparation, Family Literacy, and Citizenship Tutoring. Kern Literacy Council’s sponsors include Aera Energy LLC, Chevron, Grimmway Farms, Don and Dianne Lake, and John and Sheila Lake. Supporters include Bakersfield Adult School, State Farm, and Trans-West.

The breakfast program focused on a panel discussion with Dr. Mary Barlow, Kern County Superintendent of Schools, and Barbara Grimm-Marshall, co-owner of Grimmway Farms.

Dr. Mary Barlow: The Bakersfield Californian reported when Dr. Mary Barlow took her new position, “Barlow has spent the majority of her career in education, working her way up from teaching into the superintendency at KCSOS. In her role as superintendent, Barlow will serve as the top education official in Kern County, providing daily operational oversight of county-run programs, as well as divisions that support the county’s 47 schools serving more than 180,000 students.”

Barbara Grimm-Marshall: Jed Wallace, President and CEO of the California Charter Schools Association shared about Barbara, “As co-owner of Grimmway Farms, one of the largest and most respected agriculture companies in California, Barbara has been dedicated to support schools in and around Bakersfield, not only for her company’s employees, but for all students in the region.” Barbara has help to create two Grimmway Academy charter schools in Kern County in Arvin and Shafter.


KCCD Chancellor, Tom Burke, Mayor Karen Goh, Kimberly Bligh, and KCCD Vice Chancellor John Means

Chancellor Tom Burke, Mayor Karen Goh, Dr. Kimberly Bligh, Vice Chancellor John Means

After a kick-off welcome by Board of Director President, Robin Fleming, the moderator for the breakfast panel discussion, Treasurer Joel Sherman took over asking questions of the two panelist about how literacy has impacted their personal lives and how they see the importance of literacy in Kern County.

The discussion gave the audience insight into just how pervasive literacy is in the lives of Mary and Barbara.  Many of their points hit home with the breakfast attendees, often bringing head nodding, smiles, and even laughter.

Joel shared as he opened the discussion, “Literacy is the original form of thought transfer.” He added that the Kern Literacy Council “helps people overcome one of the greatest barriers to life.”

When Barbara was asked about how literacy impacted her life, she stated that “Reading has been the foundation for all of the opportunities I’ve had in my life.” Mary shared stories about her childhood, sharing anecdotal stories about her father’s reading genres that made the audience giggle and empathize in many cases. She said that reading has had a positive impact on her life, her children’s lives and how important it is to our community. Barbara made a point that resounded in the hall. She said because books and information are abundantly available online, we need to make the internet more accessible in all of our Kern communities.



Barbara Grim-Marshall and MAry Barlow discuss importance of literacy in their lives and in our community

Barbara Grimm Marshall, Mary Barlow

Both panelist agreed that literacy starts at infancy and lasts a life time. Literacy should be the number one commitment to our community. Books should be provided to families and tutoring should be provided to all who need that resource.

The closing speaker was a young man tutored by a  Kern Literacy tutor. Gilberto George closed the program sharing his story of learning to speak English with the help of the free services offered by the Kern Literacy Council. He shared a day in his life of waking at 5 am , working in the fields until 2 pm, studying English with his tutor, then going to his second job at Carl’s Jr. by evening and working until 12 or 1 am then starting over the next day.  He thanked the Kern Literacy Council staff for assisting him achieve his goal and learning a second language and shared his excitement that with his new fluency in English that he hopes to be a shift manager at his job soon. Literacy has changed his life. He was proud and emotional when he thanked his tutor as the audience applauded his achievements.


Gilberto George

Gilbert George

Every dollar donated to the Kern Literacy Council stays in our county to assist residents with Adult Basic Education, English as a Second Language, GED Preparation, Family Literacy, and preparation for their United States Citizenship test.

For more information: http://www.kernliteracy.org/


Spotted in The Californian

Steffani Dias of The Bakersfield Californian highlighted our fantastic culinary arts program and students in the article, “Renegade Room raring to go this fall.”  She mentions that from now until November 30th, “the student-run facility will serve dinners on Tuesday and Thursdays and lunch on Wednesdays.” For the complete menu and details, visit The Bakersfield College Website.


Thank you Steffani for the highlight – check it out here!


Renegade Athletics

Volleyball: The 4th ranked Renegades defeated 9th ranked El Camino (25-21, 25-27, 17-25, 25-17, 15-13) Wednesday night to improve their record to 8-1 on the season.

volleyball sep 2017

This was truly a team effort for the Renegades.  Alex Paris led the team with 16 kills and 16 digs, Sarah Armendariz had 14 kills and 8 digs,  Brooke Horack had 13 kills and 4 digs, Jourdon Muro, who led the team with 17 digs, also recorded 8 kills, Reece Stevenson had 7 kills and 16 digs and Haley Sanchez recorded 12 digs.

Great video shot by Francis Mayer of Coach Carl Ferreira right after the game


Renegade Wrestling:

The Bakersfield College Wrestling team placed third at the Sac City Tournament as a team, and sent three wrestlers to the top of the podium over the weekend.

Wrestling Sep 16 2017.jpg

From gogades.com —  Pedro Corona, reigning All-American, took the top spot at 133.

184 pounder Jeremy Maas and Heavyweight Romero Macias both also brought home gold.

But the champions weren’t the only ones to climb the podium; BC placed at almost every weight class.

Zavion Roberson (197) placed third, Bradley Harper (165) placed fourth, while Nick Correa (125), Pedro Ramirez (149), and Esteban Corona all placed in the top six.

Neo on September 21, 2017 — he turned 6 months on Sep 17th.

September 21 2017 Neo

Sonya Christian Sep 22 2017


That’s all for now.  

Until next time.

With much Renegade Pride and Collegiality.  

sonya —
the luckiest and happiest college president ever

Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

2 thoughts on “Enriching Lives through Campus & Community

  1. […] As I previously shared in my blog here, JESS NIETO died September 21. You may remember that Jess wore lots of different hats at BC, from classroom teacher to first Latino Dean of Delano Center.  He started the Chicano Cultural Center and Chicano Studies program at BC.  After leaving BC, he became a respected activist for civil rights and educational attainment. […]

  2. […] Did you miss the news we announced in August regarding BC in Arvin?  Check out my blog post from August 8th, “Enriching Lives through Campus and Community.” […]

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: