Growing up in a lower-class neighborhood on the east side of Bakersfield, never once did I question the quality of education my teachers provided me. I did everything my parents asked of me in my educational pursuits: I got good grades and fought to be different than the east side Bakersfield stigmas of becoming a teen mom or high school dropout.
I was never someone to “diss” the East side of Bakersfield; I was always in the crowd and I made sure that I was cool with everyone. It wasn’t until later in life when most of the people I came across either passed away young, or fell into the other seemingly inevitable categories: dropouts, teen parents, addicts, or gang members. As much as I was cool with everyone, I made sure to do my best to get out of Bakersfield.
What I found from the census data was that a little over half the residents in my community have no degree at all, and not even 30% of us have a diploma. I was lucky enough to be a part of the 27% with a high school diploma, by continuing to push myself to want more in life, but does my diploma even matter coming out of a lower-class neighborhood like the east side of Bakersfield?
Even though I beat the odds and graduated high school — without becoming a teen mom — the education I did receive didn’t adequately prepare me for college. Instead, I entered college with remedial classes and soon faced disqualification.
In high school, GPA was held in high regard; so long as my GPA was above a 3.0, it didn’t matter if I learned how to study effectively or even truly understood what I was learning. I could still play sports and was still “smart enough” to apply for college. Everything looked promising and college was around the corner. I was confident I was prepared for college.
It was later in college when everything wasn’t what I thought it would be. High school college prep courses turned into college remedial classes for both English and math. Eventually the 3.0 GPA dropped to a 2.0 and soon became a 1.90, until I was eventually disqualified.
After observing my personal situation, I asked a local Bakersfield educational advisor — who wished to remain anonymous — her opinion on whether schools in Bakersfield are properly preparing students for college. “I think we have students across the Kern High School District that are under-prepared for college. Some schools are good about encouraging students to do dual enrollment, where students can take college courses as high school students. I surely agree there is a gap between high school and colleges and there is a need of stronger collaboration.”
In college, I worked non-stop, interning 32 hours weekly, juggling off-campus jobs. I took out an thousands in loans, yet still struggled to pay my basic necessities, on top of tuition and books. On top of that, I attempted to fit in to the social scene, and attempting to stay healthy physically. Eventually, it all took a toll. Classes became second and my grades reflected how much I was struggling.
Everything I thought I knew in high school went out the door when I entered college. I was placed in the lowest remediation for Developmental Reading and Developmental Math. Successfully, I passed with credit; the downfall however, was that credit/no credit classes do not go towards the student’s GPA, and my success in passing the class did not carry on to Spring Semester.
In Spring of 2010 I was placed in the next level of Elemental Math II and Developmental Reading. I was given credit for Reading but unfortunately I was given Non-Credit for mathematics and I was forced to attend a Junior college in the summer. I was informed by my advisor that if unable to pass the math class by the end of the summer, that I would be unable to attend the following semester.
Even the fellow educator advisor agreed to students not limited to just those struggles through high school. “Many are first generation students, low-income, they lack time management, study habits, critical thinking, how to approach a professor, students do not feel connected or feel like their part of the college. Understanding the culture of college, transitioning from high school to college. These are factors to consider that hinder students from being successful in college or progressing in remediation.”
I struggled coming from a low- income family to leaping into college, trying to work full-time to fund my education and pay my bills. I dedicated a lot of time to working, networking, and doing what I can to prepare for a future I had no sure way to prepare for. Steadily, my study time was diminished more and more, and I was later disqualified in my senior year.
I struggled throughout college many times, getting good grades one semester and attempting to stay off probation other semesters. I left Bakersfield feeling prepared for my next step in and ready for college. I made my parents proud by leaving and pursuing a higher education. When I got to college I had an eye opener when the reality became more than what I thought it would be.
After getting disqualified, I learned the importance of education; I made my way back to Cal State Northridge after my disqualification, but with that came a lot of sacrifices. After my previous situation, I started to consider my own community and the high school I attended. There are 52% of residents within my home community without a high school diploma; what does that say about our school system?
Did the east side of Bakersfield fail me when it came to my education? Individuals always note education as being the key to success, but without the proper education how do we expect students to succeed? Success will always follow schools that perform well above average, but what is being done for school that are not performing at the proper lever of education? Coming from a lower-class community, as I found, usually means the price I pay for higher education is high in every aspect: from loans to mental and emotional unpreparedness. Not only does my background come with stereotypes, but it comes with a continual obligation to perform against those stereotypes in every pursuit. It comes with a lot of challenges and struggles... but it’s achievable.