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Kern County colleges and libraries reach out to 'disconnected youth'

Tehachapi High School, Tehachapi (FILE)
Posted at 5:28 PM, Sep 30, 2022
and last updated 2022-09-30 20:43:31-04

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — Literacy, education and job resources are all important for young people in Kern County communities, but nearly one in five Kern County teens and young adults are falling through the cracks and becoming a group of people known as disconnected youth.

Nonprofit sociological research group Measure of Americadefines “disconnected youth” as people between the ages of 16 and 24 who are neither working nor in school. According to the group’s recent report, nearly one fifth of the youth in Bakersfield fit in that category.

According to the study of metro areas across the United States, Bakersfield’s 19.2 percent rate of disconnected youth is second highest only to Albuquerque, New Mexico at 19.6 percent.

The colleges in Kern County are trying to combat conditions brought on by lack of job and education through early outreach to students while they are still in high school.

Kylie Campbell, Early College Program Director with the Kern Community College District, speaks about the effectiveness of outreach programs by Bakersfield College on students at McFarland High School.

“Every student that has entered McFarland High School since 2019 has completed a college application,” said Campbell. “They are both a McFarland High School Cougar and a Bakersfield College Renegade.”

BC is not the only organization trying to provide more resources. Local libraries are also trying to make sure they help the youth in their communities, especially in rural locations like McFarland.

“Sometimes in rural communities, the library is the only location that they have that they can get access to these resources,” said Kern County Library Associate Fahra Daredia.

McFarland youth may soon lose access to this resource, though. The city’s police department continues its push to take over the library and use it as a new police station. McFarland Chief of Police Kenneth Williams says the department’s current location is too small.

“We need to continue to improve our police department in the city of McFarland, and the size of our building is not conducive to do that,” said Williams.

The McFarland Library recently expanded its hours to five days a week with the goal of providing a space for families to gather. McFarland Library Branch Manager Amber Clarksean believes that closing the library would have a serious effect on local youth, and research from Measure of America agrees.

“I think it would have a huge impact. The kids come here. They don’t always just play on the computers,” said Clarksean. “They come, they do their homework, they check out their books, so it improves literacy, their understandings.”

Daredia also agrees.

“The library is essentially a community hub,” said Daredia. “It’s not just a place to pick up your next great read, but it’s a place where workforce development happens. It’s a place where people get assistance, residents can get assistance for using technology, using the computer. It’s a place where the kids can get a snack, an early dinner, and also help with their homework.”

Currently, no decision has been made about whether or not the McFarland Police Department will be taking over the McFarland Library building. According to Fahra Daredia, the county administration is not recommending moving the library, but the ultimate decision lies with the Kern County Board of Supervisors.

To view a full list of resources available at Kern County libraries, visit the KCL website, and stay connected to 23ABC for updates on this story and others.