$500,000 donated to BC STEM

Phillip Rodriguez, Reporter

Students and faculty, as well as news crews, gathered on campus Sept. 17 by the Agriculture Building next to a blank building decorated only by a sign labeled “AERA Stem Success Center.”

There, it was announced that AERA energy company had donated $500,000 to Bakersfield College, earmarked the renovation of the building to house an expanded Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics program.

The structure, described as “the ugly building” behind the speakers, was previously used for storing rakes and other items. Many members of the college administration spoke to the audience, including BC President Sonya Christian.

“We are here to say thank you, AERA,” Christian said. “Behind me is a building that was constructed in 1955 … it is in a prime spot.”

Christian explained that the soon-to-be Success Center is surrounded by the Math and Science building, the Science and Engineering building, and the Industrial Technology building.

Christian emphasized the role of the STEM program in students’ lives.

“Over 80 percent of our students are first in their families to attend college,” she said. “The health of our community depends on the success of our students. Our economic vitality depends on their success, and their families depend on their success.”

The director of the mathematics, engineering, science achievement program (MESA), Consuelo Gonzalez, agreed with Christian, specifically about the role STEM played in integrating with MESA. “I’m one of those students that you helped,” she said.

She followed this declaration by saying that she was in MESA when she was in middle school and high school, leading her to become an engineer. “That’s why my heart and soul is in MESA, and I fight for MESA so much. I’m very, very proud of everything [AERA has] done and the contributions.”

AERA CEO Gaurdie Banister was present at the event and said that he was intrigued by the science and engineering programs at BC. He said that, after witnessing the 3D lab on a tour through the college in the past, the concept behind the donation of the money was “a done deal.”

Banister echoed previous statements made by Christian, saying that the donation “provides resources for an underserved demographic in our community.” Banister explained other reasons for the contribution, calling it a strategic effort to encourage students to go into science, technology, and other related studies.

MESA member and student Irabiel Romero was able to speak before the onlookers and agreed that the building will make getting to classes easier because of its proximity to the other science buildings. “Now it will all be in one place. Everything will be simpler.”

Overall, the speakers used positive terms when referring to the project. “This will be a reminder that this industry giant, AERA, believes in the transformational power of education, and is willing to generously invest in our community and to the education of future generations.”