Philanthropist and one of Amazon’s first employees, MacKenzie Scott, is helping to make a significant impact at West Hills College Lemoore through a recent donation.
Because of its support of underrepresented communities, WHC Lemoore was one of the 200-plus colleges selected for a Scott donation in June 2021.
“It is wonderful, it is empowering, we were already doing great work here in Lemoore, so this just affirms that what we were doing was on the right track, and we can just expand and build on that and do some great things for the Valley,” says Zara Sims, Director of H.O.P.E. Initiative.
The WHCL H.O.P.E. Initiative was established and is on its way to providing students with community engagement activities and support. H.O.P.E. Stands for “Having Opportunity and Purpose through Education.”
The Initiative’s primary focus is to serve under-represented groups in Kings County and surrounding communities by partnering to provide educational opportunities.
H.O.P.E. focuses on intensive outreach and partnership in the communities WHCL serves to increase participation and academic success in higher education. The goal is to instill a new sense of optimism for those who feel hopeless by providing upward mobility through education.
“H.O.P.E. has been established to serve under-represented groups, such as our Black community, our native community, our Hispanic community, especially Hispanic males, LGBTQ and foster and homeless youth,” said Sims.
WHCL identified two existing programs that can benefit from the support of the H.O.P.E. Initiative:
- The 5c Experience (Creative, Cool, Community, College, Camp) is a two-week summer program for incoming 6th to 8th graders. It aims to help them learn about college through project-based classes, connections with college mentors, and engagement in a dynamic college setting. The focus is on STEM, performing arts, career exploration, academic success skills, and wellness. The program is designed for first-generation college students, students from disadvantaged backgrounds, and students of color.
- The Golden Eagle Training (G.E.T.) Strong Academy provides two weeks of intensive career
exploration to incoming high school seniors during the summer. These students complete a
two-unit college course on campus, which allows them to gain confidence in identifying careers that match their interests and developing a plan for their next steps after high school.
The target groups are focused on first-generation college students and disproportionately impacted student groups (such as African-American, Native American, Hispanic, and Men of Color).
The HOPE Initiative has already begun to help students. WHC Lemoore student-athlete DyAndre Morehead is a first-year student taking classes entirely online. Through Umoja, a H.O.P.E. established student club, he has connected on-campus with his peers.
“At other schools, I was never given the opportunity to take online classes and still be in a club and a sport,” said DyAndre. “West Hills is different that way, and now I have something to look forward to coming to school for it, and it has made me more open.” Sims has announced the “Year of H.O.P.E.” that will launch in August 2022 and extend through June 2023. The Year of H.O.P.E. will recognize cultural awareness months and diversity days with workshops, guest speakers, strong web and social media campaigns, faculty training to include awareness in the classroom and student-led events.
The H.O.P.E. Initiative has begun helping to support Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Access trainings with faculty and staff. It has teamed up with student clubs like the Rainbow Alliance (supporting the LGBQT+ student community) and Umoja (Black student community) communities to support them in their inaugural years on campus.
WHCL is also using the H.O.P.E. Initiative to strengthen ties to the community. Sims is meeting with various non-profit organizations in the Lemoore community to build a network of resources that can be shared with the campus community. She is also creating ways for the community to utilize the campus to partner for events.
One key partnership is with the Santa Rosa Rancheria of the Tachi Tribe, a federally recognized group of Native Americans native to Central California and the Lemoore area. This partnership serves to recognize the Tachi Tribe as being the original landowners as well as create a pathway for the Tachi community to attend WHCL in a welcoming, inclusive manner that gives the tribe a voice on the campus. “West Hills Lemoore has a lot to look forward to and to hope for,” said Sims. “The funding for the H.O.P.E. initiative has been endowed and will be available for student programs and community partnerships for years to come.”