Inside Aera
Aera in the Community Apr 16, 2020

Timely aid helps Taft College students weather COVID-19’s impact

Kern Community Foundation and Aera step up when the school locks down

Taft College Josh Vazquez can afford temporary local housing, thanks to funds from the Kern Community Foundation’s COVID-19 relief fund. A weakened immune system from Valley Fever prevented the business major from returning to his New York City home when the college closed down in March.

Taft College Josh Vazquez can afford temporary local housing, thanks to funds from the Kern Community Foundation’s COVID-19 relief fund. A weakened immune system from Valley Fever prevented the business major from returning to his New York City home when the college closed down in March.

When Gov. Gavin Newsom issued California’s stay-at-home order March 19 to help control the spread of the coronavirus, Taft College complied by closing its doors the next day.

That created problems for many of the roughly 4,000 students who attend the west Kern County community college.

Taft College is one of the rare junior colleges that provides dorms. But with school housing abruptly shuttered, many students couldn’t afford to return to their homes in other states or even as far away as Puerto Rico. Other students who depend on jobs to help pay their living expenses lost income as their hours were cut or eliminated.

Within days, however, help surfaced when a $5,000 grant landed in Taft College’s student emergency relief fund.

The funds were dispatched from Kern Community Foundation’s (KCF) COVID-19 relief fund. The account provides grants to Kern County nonprofit organizations serving vulnerable populations. It also assists those who can present a clear case of direct impact due to the medical or economic effects of the pandemic.

KCF’s relief fund received a $100,000 donation from the Aera Energy Fund in March.

“The grant money from KCF reached us at the right time,” said Sheri Horn-Buck, executive director of the Taft College Foundation. “It went directly into our emergency relief fund for our students.”

The funds helped fly many Taft College students home. Other students received gift cards for food and other incidentals. The college has also secured temporary local housing for students unable to return to New York City, South Africa and other places outside California.

“A heartfelt thank you to Aera Energy for its generous $5,000 donation to Taft College through the KCF,” said Dr. Deb Daniels, superintendent and president of West Kern Community College District and Taft College.

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