Reprinted from The Bakersfield Californian
The new home of Bakersfield’s Mexican American Opportunity Foundation at 2130 Chester Ave. #200 is much reason to celebrate for its administrator Magda Menendez, who has made a career of helping others.
The proof hangs inside the walls of the new facility. Menendez proudly points to the collection of framed pictures of local residents who have gone through MAOF for vocational training, educational courses, work experience and more for greater opportunities in the workplace. On Friday, Menendez welcomed the public, community leaders, MAOF staff and students to a ribbon-cutting ceremony of the new nonprofit’s new home, which has more than 10,000 square feet and offers five classrooms for its programs and services.
Aside from offering classes such as bookkeeping/payroll accounting, clerical and GED preparation, the MAOF Skill-Center also offers work experience programs where participants are placed with employers to gain valuable on-the-job training. In addition, MAOF runs four child-care centers in Kern County.
Those who qualify for MAOF services must meet certain income guidelines no matter their race or ethnicity. “We have been providing our services in Kern County since 1978,” said Menendez, “We have helped thousands upon thousands of Kern County residents improve their quality of lives.”
And the new facility will allow them to keep doing that, said Martin Castro, president/CEO of MAOF, which is headquartered in Los Angeles (Bakersfield is one of many locations offered throughout the state). Castro is actually from Bakersfield and was in town on Friday to celebrate the opening, noting, “my roots will always be here.”
Other students were pleased with the new facility, which has more to offer than the previous location. However, MAOF student Jacob Clark said the organization is more than just a facility or service.
“It has a life of its own,” Clark said. “It’s exciting and gratifying to walk in every day and work among welcoming friends and instructors who are ready to help me get an education. I was able to build on skills that would help me in my future career, and create steppingstones for my path to success. In the end I know nothing in life is easy and sometimes those stones can be slippery, but I know I have MAOF to support me.”
Student Rolando Linares, who is currently enrolled in the bookkeeping and accounting course, agreed.
“I found MAOF at a time in my life when I was ready for a career change,” Linares said. “While the strength of this wonderful organization is in its life-changing vocational course, its heart is in the people who run it and the students it prepares for the future.
“Never had I seen so many friendly and helpful people together in one place: instructors who are encouraging, knowledgeable and obviously love what they do, and among students, there is a sense of real fellowship: everybody going out of their way to help each other throughout the course.”
Olivia Garcia is a Californian columnist and editor of Bakersfield Life and BWell magazines. Send her tips at ogarcia@ bakersfield.com. Her work appears here every third Monday; the views expressed are her own.