Southern Kern Unified Opens Community Center to Address Local Needs

Monday April 1, 2024

Nestled in the southeastern corner of Kern County sits the remote community of Rosamond and the Southern Kern Unified School District (SKUSD). Fallon Mitchell grew up in the area, attended Southern Kern schools, and is now the district’s grant coordinator for the California Community Schools Partnership Program (CCSPP), a statewide initiative focused on integrating academics, health and social services and community engagement.

Mitchell says Rosamond was an ideal candidate for the community schools model due to its remote location and because resources from outside the area are so sparse.

“Because we’re such a close-knit community, everyone relies on each other for resources,” she said. “If you are not supporting a student and their family’s basic needs, there is no way for that student to be successful, come to school, and learn.”

SKUSD’s parent and community center.

In response to the area’s unique needs, SKUSD recently unveiled a parent and community center where a wide range of resources and services designed to support families and enhance community well-being are offered. From academic assistance to mental health resources, the center aims to serve as a comprehensive hub for information and support.

Computers are available for parents, as are free books for students, meeting rooms, mental health resources, and a coffee bar stocked with snacks. Efforts are also underway to introduce art and technology classes, support groups for adults, and to hire personnel who can provide dedicated support to parents on a full-time basis.

The district partnered with the Parent Institute for Quality Education (PIQE), a national nonprofit that partners with schools to provide hands-on classes, workshops, seminars, and ongoing support for parents. Many families in the predominantly Hispanic area have been able to take English courses, among others.

“We wanted to make it really appealing to entice our parents to come in,” said Superintendent Barbara Gaines.

A look inside SKUSD’s parent and community resource center.

One of the parent center’s most successful accomplishments to date was a resource fair held in the high school gym last year that more than 200 people attended. The community was able to access essential services and information they needed.

The district handed out donated backpacks, school supplies, dental kits, and other essential items. Several Kern County organizations were represented, including the health department, Kern County Library, Kern County Department of Housing and Human Services, the East Kern Family Resource Center, tobacco and drug prevention programs, and various local businesses and community stakeholders.

“I wanted the community to be able to have a bunch of their local resources in one place, so they could find out what was offered and where it was,” Mitchell said.

More than 200 people attended the community resource fair.

The parent and community center also focuses on preparing students for the next steps in their lives, including higher education and career opportunities. The staff keeps students informed of scholarships and education opportunities available.

“We’re doing what we can to make an education as accessible for our kids and our community,” Gaines said.

As SKUSD looks ahead, its focus remains on empowering families, bridging gaps, and ensuring access to essential resources and services for all community members. Through initiatives like the parent and community center, Mitchell hopes to create a brighter and more equitable future for the next generation. 

“This is very community-based, parent-based, and family-based,” Mitchell said. “I grew up here, and I want my kids to grow up here because it’s a safe place.”

By Katie Avery

By Katie Avery

Katie Avery joined the Kern County Superintendent of Schools in 2023 as a Communications Specialist. As a former journalist and marketing professional, her passions include media and storytelling. Before joining KCSOS, Avery worked for various local TV stations as well as the health care industry.