college students walk downstairs

An early jump on a healthy career

This California partnership connects high school students with health-care jobs.

Public health is one of the most promising fields for finding a job and building a career. Entry-level positions, however, can require intensive education, and the cost of attending a four-year college has become increasingly burdensome for middle- and low-income families.

A partnership between Bakersfield College and the Kern High School District is working to change that by connecting students with emerging opportunities in public health. The Public Health Early College Pathway program lets students from the district’s high schools take courses at this California community college for free, while also introducing them to career pathways in public health through volunteering and internships.

Students who start the program as freshmen can graduate high school with an associate’s degree or the ability to finish a bachelor’s degree in just two years at a four-year institution. Nearly three-quarters of students at the 18 participating high schools are from low-income households, so this option to embark on a career with no student debt — or far less than average — is especially valuable for program participants. To date, more than half of applicants are Hispanic-Latino, while another 15% are African American.

Support from Bank of America funds college tuition, fees and transportation for 35 Kern County ninth graders each year — part of the bank’s $1.25 billion, five-year commitment to advance racial equality and economic opportunity. “Getting students to college, and through college, is step one,” says Cheryl Scott, executive director of the Bakersfield College Foundation. “But our Bank of America partners don’t stop there. There are always opportunities to connect Bakersfield College graduates with that critical next step — securing employment in a good paying job. The students benefit, local employers benefit and everyone in the community is better for it.”