Newsom devotes $18M to new Kern County educational collaborative

May 27—Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Thursday a new Kern County educational collaborative will get $18 million to advance equity by expanding access to higher education and creating opportunities for local careers.

The Kern Regional K16 Education Collaborative seeks to create a "seamless educational system" by partnering with the Kern County Superintendent of Schools, Kern Community College District, Cal State Bakersfield, local businesses, UC Merced and UCLA, Kern Superintendent of Schools Mary Barlow said in a phone interview.

"We have this collaborative that is seamlessly working together for the benefit of the county and offering to help each other with their programs and initiatives in a way that I've just never seen before," said Patrice Richter, grant development director with the KCSOS, while noting she's worked for 35 years in her office.

The Newsom administration opened the application process May 2 and distributed $108.6 million across six statewide collaboratives. Recipients needed to have a pipeline already in place implementing goals of the new group, Richter said.

The foundation for the Kern Regional K16 Education Collaborative was made possible by the Kern Education Pledge, Barlow said. Since 2017, the Kern Education Pledge has worked to boost educational outcomes for students by involving every school district in Kern County, CSUB, the Kern Community College District, West Kern Community College District, charter schools and businesses.

The Kern collaborative expands this program by adding UC Merced, UCLA and the Central Valley Higher Educational Consortium as its partners.

"We are proud to be a partner in an effort with such promise to change lives throughout the Central Valley," UC Merced Chancellor Juan Sánchez Muñoz said in a statement to The Californian. "This regional partnership will build social capital, improve economic outcomes and transform lives."

Industry partners include various local entities such as Kern County government, the city of Bakersfield, Bank of America, Community Action Partnership of Kern, Cornerstone Engineering, Kern Oil & Refining Co., Stria, the United Farm Workers and several others.

Goals of the new collaborative range from improving diversity of staff and creating inclusive learning environments to retaining students and providing better counseling and supporting college preparation, according to a summary of the grant process. Additionally, the new collaborative will create health care, education, business management, engineering and computing pathways for students beginning as early as middle school.

Fulfilling these goals comes through various initiatives. The first provides mentoring to ease community college transfers to a four-year institution and expanding the Early Academic Outreach Program specifically for Black students, Barlow said.

Middle school students will get special technology to map out career plans, and they will receive guidance on which classes or certifications to take, Barlow said. More dual-enrollment classes will be offered, while UCLA and UC Merced will expose students to their programs through mentoring, Richter added.

Supporting students by ensuring they get resources for basic, digital and financial needs is the other initiative, Barlow added.

The $18.1 million will be distributed until 2026. The collaborative must comply with requirements by 2024 and 2026.

"I do think it's a game changer," Barlow said. "I really do."

Ishani Desai can be reached at 661-395-7417. Follow her on Twitter: @idesai98.