Skip to main content
San Joaquin Valley College Blog

Bakersfield Campus Helps Arvin High School Make it to DC for Competition

May 9, 2013

Arvin High SchoolArvin High School students spent months studying the Constitution to beat out other California high schools for a chance to go up against other state winners in the “We the People” competition in Washington DC April 26-29. After several hard-won state matches where their knowledge of the constitution was mined, they qualified as one of two CA teams to earn a spot. The Arvin team had placed second but won the single ‘wild card’ selection made each year.

The problem: $90,000 for travel expenses for the team of 26 seniors. Fundraising was going to be difficult for a town of barely 20,000 residents – 92% of whom are considered socioeconomically disadvantaged. But a proud Arvin High School student population of 2,500 was on a mission to raise the necessary funds to get to DC.

Short of their goal and with just a couple of weeks left to raise the money, Melissa Cahill, SJVC’s previous Division Manager and now part-time instructor whipped into action. Melissa had completed her student teaching at Arvin High School, which is about 15-miles southeast of Bakersfield. Campus fundraising hit high gear. “These kids gave up the last six months of Spring Break, enjoying friends, the movies, video games and everything else to prepare for this,” says Cahill. “I am proud we were there to help.”

Campus dress-down days and cupcake sales brought in about $300. The Campus Connect Crew and High School Advisor, Marcus Barnette, were instrumental in organizing the bake sale and keeping momentum going to raise as much money as possible. As the deadline drew near Ms. Cahill threw out a plea to Facebook friends, where SJVC students answered the call with another $100. “Our SJVC students and I were the very first ones to give,” says Cahill. “We are teaching our students to make a difference.” Melissa made out a personal check to bring the total to $500 – and Arvin seniors made their goal! A check for $500 was presented to Arvin principal Carlos Sardo.

Before the competition took place students from every state got a never-to-be-forgotten tour of Capitol Hill, The White House, Arlington National Cemetery and Mt. Vernon. They got to meet elected officials and other dignitaries and learn about government beyond classroom walls. Most of these students had never been out of Arvin and went home with a much wider view of – not only government – but our place in the world.

Arvin High School students went into competition at George Mason University with a determination to show the country what they could achieve. “When we first came in we had trouble speaking and a lot of other teams just expected, ‘Oh, it’s Arvin; it just full of poor disadvantaged students; they can’t do anything,’” says Arvin student Malcolm Rivera. They held their own and although they didn’t place at the top they came home with the title, “Best Team in the Western United States”. Their coach, Robert Ruckman, was very proud of their performance and accomplishments. “To see all their hard work pay off and get this reward is extremely gratifying,” he says.

Another door opened to these young Arvin seniors – and all the Arvin students to follow them. Principal Sardo wants to work with SJVC to introduce more Arvin High School students to the college and the opportunities that are available to them. “Mr. Sardo wants to bus his students in to observe our hands-on learning and, also, asked that we come to his campus, meet with his counselors and show his students that they have options,” says Ms. Cahill.

“SJVC wants all students to know that they can achieve their goal and graduate college,” says Melissa Cahill.

Arvin is a small town with a big heart and high school students with a big dream to match.