At 20 years old, Endee Grijalva found herself packing up the car with all her belongings. She, her boyfriend and their two babies were newly homeless. A single thought raced through her mind.
“I knew I had to continue my education,” said Endee, now 36. “I enrolled at BC the next day and didn't look back.”
She's since earned an associate's, bachelor's and is pursuing her master's degree. In the process, Endee has transformed her life and now leads a program that aims to do the same for everyone who needs an on-ramp to a fresh start, self-sufficiency and a better life.
Since being hired at Bakersfield College in 2017, Endee has led the effort to create the college's adult education program, which has a goal of getting adults back into education so they can skill up and build up their resume, and enter the workforce or get promoted.
In Kern County, the college-going rate is historically low. As automation displaces jobs in farming and oil production, and other employment options increasingly require higher order skills, adult ed programs are a key bridge to upskill the workforce for the jobs of the future.
Endee and her team developed nearly two dozen tuition-free, noncredit certificate programs that range from welding and food handling to customer relations and digital marketing. These certificates equip students for immediate employment and also open the door to for-credit certificate and degree programs.
Endee also spearheaded Project HireUp, a BC partnership with CityServe to connect individuals experiencing homelessness with free education and job placement opportunities. This project established the JobSpot at Bakersfield Adult School and the Arvin Resource Hub to create a clear path from homelessness to a career for local community members facing the same challenges Endee overcame as a young mother when she decided to focus on her education as a path to a better future.
“Our niche is understanding the students we serve on a very deep level. We're hands on but we teach students how to navigate,” Endee said.
Over the years, Endee has served on committees and boards for local organizations such as Early Childhood Council of Kern, Greater Chamber Ambassadors, Latina Leaders of Kern County, Bakersfield Young Professionals (chair in 2019) and KCCD Management Association. She is also a graduate of Leadership Bakersfield.
Endee and her husband live with their three children on the city's east side, where they both grew up. The babies she packed into the car on that desperate night 15 years ago now help her pack up the car and often tag along with her to the college and career fairs she attends for Bakersfield College.
She tells them: “Put on your BC shirt and let's roll.”
Story by Stacey Shepard