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Friday, May 17 2013 11:00 PM

Summer school not available? Try this

By The Bakersfield Californian

School will be out in just a few weeks, and thousands of high school students -- some of them new graduates, others underclassmen -- will be looking for things to do with their time. Parents who may previously have assumed that summer school remains an option may be in for a surprise, too.

Summer school is now primarily "recovery credit" driven, meaning most of the students are taking classes to make up for poor grades or performance. Summer school for students looking to "jump ahead" by earning credits for things like college enrollment? Not so much.

It's just not as easy for teens to find meaningful things to do in the summer as it once was. And, sorry, we don't consider playing "Halo 4" for three months straight a meaningful activity. Job opportunities have improved in recent years, but competition among teens for temporary summer work is still intense.

Here are a few suggestions. Bakersfield College has expanded its summer offerings, which can help students avoid the hassle of trying to get into classes that fill very quickly during the traditional school year. BC is offering 50 percent more summer classes this year than last year, and has resumed its practice of allowing qualifying high school students to concurrently enroll at the college.

The Kern High School District's Regional Occupation Center, which helps prepare students for jobs in a variety of fields, has a summer program for junior high and high school students, but it is already filled.

Cal State Bakersfield and BC both offer a variety of summer camps for elementary and high school students.

If the summer school option, or lack thereof, worries students who were hoping to pad their transcript with courses likely to impress college admissions officers, consider this alternative: volunteerism. Providing pro bono service to charities or other nonprofits can be of great value to students, especially those who are thinking a few years ahead about their eventual foray into the job market.

If a summer job proves too elusive and summer school is not an option, contact any of the organizations throughout Kern that are desperately in need of help and would likely welcome you with open arms. The benefit to them might be immediate, but to the student it could be lifelong.

Hoping to get into a college with stringent admission standards? Indicating on an application that you are a "giver" who cares about others in your community is a factor that might tip the scales in your favor. The same applies when the time comes to enter the post-education job market.

Students can pick up some on-the-job experience at the same time. A student looking to pursue a career in the technology sector, for example, could volunteer to work on the computers and networks for any of the charities or organizations that need help in that specific area.

Employers understand that young men and women hoping to land that first job will not have extensive experience in their chosen field, so they must make their decisions based on other intangibles. At the top of their list, almost assuredly, is character. And the willingness to volunteer is a reliable indicator of character.

The bottom line: It's a bit tougher than usual out there, but opportunities do exist, and students can still find meaningful and rewarding things to do with their summers.

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