BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — The Farmworkers Institute has been serving the Tehachapi community since 1978. The institute has recently opened a second location in southeast Bakersfield, and this new facility looks to help people for years to come.
The Farmworkers Institute of Education and Leadership Development has been promoting economic and social prosperity for latinos and other low-income individuals throughout the Central Valley, and the new $8 million dollar facility will continue training and teaching underserved community members.
The new development facility will offer hands-on experience and training in various fields, including early childhood development, wildland fire mitigation strategies, business management, agriculture, and construction.
As Andres Lopez, FIELD Recycling Enterprises Coordinator explains, alongside the career training, the development facility also offers educational opportunities in the same place.
“Our CTE program, our career technical education program, allows them to finish work, or go to school first and then have a work day throughout the day at the same facility,” said Lopez.
The new facility also has an early childhood development program.
“We have a teacher on staff that is certified to do all the childcare, but then we have students who at the same time are learning the process of taking care of their kids,” said Lopez.
FIELD student Leilani Torres, who is now the recycling program coordinator, says this program has showing her what she can accomplish as a first-generation college student. She hopes this hands-on center will give other students the same opportunity.
“Honestly, it’s, like, bittersweet, because back then I didn’t know what I wanted to do,” said Torres. “I joined the program at 19 and then I got promoted into the position, so it just makes me know that i can help other people.”
The 8 career technical education courses are a part of EPIC de Cesar Chavez School, and they’re making a difference in students’ lives across the Central Valley.
“From the ages of 18 to 26, a lot of us don’t know which direction to go into,” said Torres. “So this program helps a lot of them get back on track, get on their feet, and I think it would be a positive impact on the community.”
Torres has been working in the recycling center program at FIELD in Tehachapi, and says she feels it’s where she’s found her true passion.
“A wise individual once told me not to pursue your dream job, but to pursue your dream lifestyle, so today that’s what I’m doing,” said Torres. “I now am going to school to get my BA in business administration, as well as opening a recycling center of my own.”
Students becoming entrepreneurs is something that FIELD president and CEO David Villarino-Gonzalez says is the goal of the institution.
“This is a huge step in the direction of training and educating recent immigrants, folks without high school diplomas, giving them the ability to build the confidence to own and operate their own businesses,” said Villarino-Gonzalez.
Torres says she is looking forward to using the southeast Bakersfield location to give more residents access to the pathways to success FIELD provides.
“With the new training facility, it just gives us more room to grow,” Torres said. “Because I feel like we were outgrowing our old location and it helps us serve more of the youth and individuals.”
Villarino-Gonzalez agrees, saying this new center will be able to continue giving generations of students a chance to be successful.
“It isn’t that people can’t do it,” Villarino-Gonzalez explains. “It’s that people don’t have the confidence to use the skills that they already have. We’re just helping them to get those little victories so that they can see themselves, so that they can do this and they can do it well.”
For those who are interested in signing up for any of the CTE pathways available from FIELD, they must be enrolled in a school program and apply. FIELD has enrollment forms for those who either do not have a high school diploma or are still attending high school , as well as a way to register for classes in environmental and community restoration and outreach.