From West Hills College
West Hills College Coalinga in rare company, one of six recipients of STEM Pathway Academy Grant

West Hills College Coalinga is in rare company. The Westside community college is one of only six recipients to be awarded the highly competitive California College and Career Access Pathways (CCAP) STEM Pathway Academy Grant.

The grant includes $1,428,570 to support and grow agriculture career pathway partnerships. Funding will be used to establish a connection with The Wonderful Company, expanding its successful Wonderful Agriculture Career Prep (Ag Prep) program with a new Ag Apprenticeship pathway.

“Wonderful Ag Prep provides real-world learning experiences that prepare our students for the high-tech jobs of the future,” said Noemi Donoso, executive vice president of Wonderful Education at The Wonderful Company. “It’s a game-changer to arm high school graduates with real-world work experience and an associate of science degree. We’re thrilled to have the opportunity to partner with great schools such as West Hills College Coalinga and use this grant funding to further expand upon this important work.” 

The existing Ag Prep pathways are four-year programs, where students earn an associate of science degree in agriculture while still in high school. Through this grant and existing partnership between The Wonderful Company and West Hills College Coalinga, new apprenticeship pathways will be available at Avenal and Mendota High Schools targeting students, who may ultimately wish to fast-track their career with a high-paying Ag job right out of high school.

These students will earn their associate degree but over a six-year period with extensive work experience, including a two-year work rotation at multiple Wonderful Company business units.

The grant will support the creation of an agriculture technology pathway from middle school on, helping students learn valuable skills including computer applications for ag and precision agriculture control systems. Students will learn about GPS, GIS mapping software, automatic tractor guidance systems, and more.

“We’re proud to continue our partnership with The Wonderful Company,” said Dr. Stuart Van Horn, Chancellor of the West Hills Community College District. “We recognize that there is a skills gap in Valley agriculture, and we’re dedicated to training students to fill that gap. The future of farming is reliant on our community’s ability to support its growth. We are intent on building a college completion culture, and this is one way to do that.”

Wonderful Education’s mission is to enable a lifetime of career opportunities by significantly increasing the number of college graduates in the Central Valley. Funded by Lynda and Stewart Resnick, owners of The Wonderful Company, Wonderful Education serves 55,000 students and partners with educational leaders, colleges, and teachers across 24 school districts to improve educational opportunities and enhance the quality of life for children throughout California’s Central Valley.

Initiatives include agricultural career training, college scholarships, school grants, summer camps, early childhood programs and preschools, teacher development and parent engagement programs. The Resnicks also founded the Wonderful College Prep Academy charter schools in Delano and Lost Hills, California.