Education Matters: How a business partnership is improving opportunities


COALINGA, California (KSEE) – Business partnerships are helping West Hills Community College District expand its services to its students.

The Coalinga college traditionally focused on liberal arts, but it’s making a big push toward math, engineering, and science in an effort to prepare its students for STEM-related careers.

West Hills Community College Coalinga is located west of I-5, in an area dotted with oil fields. Despite its rural location, it is having a huge impact on students living in communities such as Avenal, Huron, and Five Points.

“Coalinga is an economically challenged and underserved area and in order to bring business to the area we know that we need a talented and trained workforce and we know what the current economy and the current status of industry science and technology are driving that,” said President of West Hills-Coalinga Brenda Thames.

In an area where many of the students come from farmworker families, West Hills is putting a focus on math, science, and technology with it’s MESA program: math, engineering, science, achievement.

“It’s providing them an opportunity where they can actually go and work in groups and they get tutorials,” said Chemistry Teacher Dr. Henry Kenneth. “They get to go on trips and visit campuses and particularly in this community a lot of the students have never left the area.”

To give these students the support they need to excel in their math, science, and technology courses, West Hills-Coalinga partnered with Aera Energy to open the MESA lab and study lounge.

“While I think STEM education is really exciting, I’ve really never talked to anybody who just kind of breezes through it without a bump in the road,” said Aera President and CEO Christina Sistrunk.

“Here is a place where they not only have a quiet place to study and to network with other students but they can also get mentoring and tutoring support.”

Student Cole Lester, who wants to become a math teacher, says having a place like the MESA lab and study area can help students succeed.

“I think a place like this is very vital for a college because mathematics and science are very intimidating to a lot of students so building a place that’s dedicated specifically to that can help ease the students transitioning from high school to here.”

The new MESA lab will stay open later than the college’s library, so students a place to gather to prepare for finals and big tests.

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