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Friday, Aug 19 2011 06:00 PM

'Week Zero' gives students a jumpstart on college

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    By Jaclyn Borowski / The Californian

    Jennifer Jones, a first-year student at Bakersfield College, carefully injects DNA samples into a gel during the Mathematics Engineering Science Achievement Program's "Week Zero." The program, made possible by Chevron, enables new students to jump right into the fields they are interested in.

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  2. 2 of 5

    By Jaclyn Borowski / The Californian

    Professor Joe Saldivar demonstrates how to inject DNA samples into a gel during the Mathematics Engineering Science Achievement Program's "Week Zero."

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  3. 3 of 5

    By Jaclyn Borowski / The Californian

    Jose Jaramillo, a first-year student at Bakersfield College, suctions a DNA sample into a pipette during the Mathematics Engineering Science Achievement Program's "Week Zero."

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  4. 4 of 5

    By Jaclyn Borowski / The Californian

    From left, Jyll Hernando, Pam Matthews and Andrew Raymond compile an informational brochure on solar cooking. Their class during the Mathematics Engineering Science Achievement Program's "Week Zero" has focused on building a solar oven that generates enough power to cook cornbread, cookies and brownies.

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  5. 5 of 5

    By Jaclyn Borowski / The Californian

    During MESA's "Week Zero" at Bakersfield College, one group of students led by Professor Klint Rigby constructed solar ovens that generated enough power to cook cornbread, cookies and brownies.

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BY JORGE BARRIENTOS, Californian staff writer jbarrientos@bakersfield.com

Jyll Hernando on Monday will begin her college career.

The 18-year-old future engineer is taking a full load at Bakersfield College that includes chemistry and calculus, and to relieve a little stress, tennis.

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Fewer students will enter Bakersfield College Monday than last year with fewer courses available for them, college officials said. And they'll be paying more.

As of Friday, the college's head count was 16,645, or nearly 9 percent lower than the same day in 2010 -- a difference of 1,584 students. At the same time, the college is offering 150 fewer courses this fall, down to 1,479.

And this fall, per unit fees rose from $26 to $36.

The reason is money. The state's budget issues have forced California community colleges to cut course sections -- resulting in decreased enrollment -- and raise fees.

"This is a challenging time for colleges in California, and especially for Bakersfield College," said Greg Chamberlain, president of BC, in a statement. "We serve some of the most economically disadvantaged students in California, and to have to reduce the classes available to them means we won't be able to provide education to everyone who wants it.

"Bakersfield College has a difficult road ahead, and the decisions we make are not made lightly. Regardless, Bakersfield College will continue to do everything possible to provide quality educational opportunities to the community."

Because fewer courses are available, fewer adjunct faculty are also working, officials said, though it wasn't immediately clear how many.

Even more, BC has more than 98 percent of its seats filled, and waitlist enrollment for classes is at more than 12,500 (one student can be counted several times). College officials are advising waitlisted students to attend classes in case seats open.

The top waitlisted courses are: history of the United States (528 waitlisted), expository composition (496), college composition (396), American government (393) and elementary algebra (351).

Most of the students are enrolled at the main campus in Bakersfield -- about 14,000. The Delano campus has nearly 2,000 students enrolled


* Parking

Bakersfield College is building a new Golden Empire Transit center just outside of campus, on Panorama Drive, which means students will need to find other places to park.

Parking is available on Panorama Drive from the corner at Haley Street to north of the agricultural farm, and also north of the Child Care Center. Signs will direct pedestrians.

The transit center, when complete, will fit eight buses and have restrooms.

* Busing from Lamont and Arvin

Students traveling to the main BC campus from Arvin and Lamont will have an easier time taking evening classes starting Monday due new expanded transportation routes made possible by Kern Regional Transit, BC and the county of Kern.

Two additional buses will depart from BC at 8 p.m. and 9:30 p.m., Monday through Thursday. Residents from the rural towns have complained of transportation issues to and from campus, which is more than 20 miles away. Those treks took hours back and forth via three different bus lines.

Stops along the new paths include Bolthouse Farms on East Brundage Lane, and the Valley Plaza three times per day.

A route for Edison was also revised to provide one day per week transportation. That route will make a stop at Mercado Latino.

Fares will remain the same. To view a complete schedule for the new routes, go to www.bakersfield.com/thegrade.

* New faculty

Ten instructors have been hired as full-time faculty members. Many of them are filling positions left vacant by retirements and relocations. They are Alex Henderson, counseling; Darren Willis, CAD/industrial drawing; Andrea Tumblin, mathematics; Andrew Baker, English as a Second Language at the Delano campus; Steven Lytle, biology; Mary "Michelle" Hart, academic development at the Delano campus; Alisha Loken, nursing; Keri Wolf, English; Harold Mendoza, computer science; and Shohreh Rahman, counseling.

For more on the new instructors, go to www.bakersfield.com/thegrade.

"I'm so nervous," said Hernando, an Independence High graduate. "But luckily I'm getting prepared."

Hernando is one of 60 students who got a jump start this past week by participating in "Week Zero," a week-long, science-based orientation through the Mathematics Engineering Science Achievement program at BC.

In Week Zero, students learn college survival skills, get to know fellow students and professors, and experiment a bit in non-graded courses. The 60 are chosen for the program based on their intentions to seek careers in STEM fields, or Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics .

That includes students like Pam Mattheus, who is hoping to soon be a petroleum engineer. The 48-year-old has worked as a petroleum engineering technician for 23 years, and is starting college courses Monday in hopes that the education will launch her to a higher-paying job.

This week, in a group, she built a cardboard "solar oven" that bakes brownies and cooks rice by harnessing the sun's heat. She's also getting to know how college works, and who to go to for help.

"I'm getting to know the professors closely," Mattheus said. "This week is helping a lot."

In other classes, students are analyzing DNA to solve fictitious crimes, studying wind power and breaking down the composition of orange juice, among other things.

For BC professors like Klint Rigby, the program gives them a chance to work along their students in an intimate, smaller group setting rather than a full room or lecture hall.

"I get to really know them, and they get to know each other," said Rigby, who has been involved in Week Zero for three years.

Week Zero is made possible by a BC-Chevron partnership that started in 2008. The oil company started giving $20,000 each year to offer the program to more students and pay for class materials (this year it gave $25,000).

Adam Alvidrez, Chevron spokesman, called Week Zero an effective STEM boot camp. In recent years, Chevron has given millions to local K-12 schools and Cal State Bakersfield for science-based research programs, like REVS-UP and Project Lead the Way.

Officials hope students will stay on the STEM track throughout community college, get STEM-based degrees at the local university, and one day work for the company here.

"Programs like these are good for Kern County and good for California's future," Alvidrez said.

Back in the BC classrooms Wednesday, a group of seven students played Crime Scene Investigation, analyzing DNA by using the same tools professionals use in pharmaceutical companies and research labs, said biology professor Joe Salvidar.

"This is a great opportunity for them to get ahead," he said.

Jennifer Jones, 30, and Sheri Craig, 17, said they're ready for classes to start after taking part in Week Zero. And Craig said she recently made up her mind -- she wants to work in forensics.

"I'm getting to use all this equipment, and I like it," Craig said. "I'm definitely sticking with science."

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