BC’s mentor program receives recognition

Elizabeth Castillo, Editor in Chief

The Making it Happen program at Bakersfield College won an Exemplary Program award from the Academic Senate for California Community Colleges on Jan. 21. The award, which included a $4,000 cash prize, was given to the MIH program for being the best representation of this year’s theme, “Transitions from High School to College: Assisting Students in Meeting Their Educational Goals.” Janet Fulks, the MIH lead and dean of Precollegiate Studies and Student Success at BC said that she was excited to win the award.

“It was a great honor for BC to be recognized,” she said. “It was a team effort and now we can reinvest that money into good things.”

Fulks said that she already has plans for the money. In February, members of the MIH team will attend the DREAM conference in Baltimore. The conference, organized by Achieving the Dream, is held to help leaders in community colleges focus on student success.

While Fulks has attended the conference in the past to learn from others, this year she will be presenting on the MIH program. She hopes to take two students that are currently enrolled in the program to the conference. The funds from the award will help pay for travel expenses for the students.

“We were asked to give a presentation at the conference and now we get to talk about the program nationally,” she said.

Although Fulks has made progress with the program, she said that her team has learned a lot about what isn’t working within MIH. One problem that the program has encountered is getting a hold of students still in high school. Fulks said that many students that MIH attempts to contact don’t have their BC email set up. The program also calls students on cell phones, and many do not have their voicemail set up or parents answer and are hesitant for their children to be involved in MIH.

“Now we have our mentors text students,” she said. “We’ve contacted high schools and let them know that we’re contacting students via text and showing them how to access their BC email account.”

According to Fulks, the MIH program allows BC employees to learn about BC through the eyes of fist generation students. Mentors for the program include full-time and adjunct faculty, classified staff, and administrators.

According to Fulks, Sonya Christian, president of BC, also has mentees and has learned that students have questions she is unable to answer. Fulks said it’s important for mentors to understand the barriers students face while trying to succeed at BC.

“We’re learning about students’ needs and we have the power to change things,” she said.

One change that has occurred though MIH is the process students go through to get a job on campus. Fulks said that students who work on campus are more likely to do better in their classes. The process students went through to get a job on campus has been changed from 14 steps to four, with the help of MIH. Now, some students involved in MIH are tutors on campus.

Fulks hopes to expand the program in the future.

While 500 students were chosen to participate last year, the program should expand to 1,500 incoming students in the next year. Alexis Soto, 18, is a BC student currently involved in the program. Soto graduated from Tehachapi High in 2014 and is happy to be a part of the MIH program.

“I wasn’t too excited to begin with, but now I see how lucky I was to have been selected,” she said.

Soto hopes to major in English at BC and eventually wants to become a high school teacher or a professor. She said that her favorite part of the program is all the help she receives from BC and believes the program gives students opportunities to succeed.

“The MIH coordinators provide you with skills and tools you need to excel at BC,” she said. “These individuals are truly determined to see you through to your success.”