Jack Waite • Ford Dream Builders

Photo of Lauren Be

Jack, a senior at Liberty High School, and his fellow teammates of the Ford Dream Builders inspire their generation with a thoughtful collection of local movers and shakers in their project entitled “Greetings from Bakersfield.”

Here is his story…

I was excited to apply for the Ford Dream Builders program, a community service and civic leadership organization run by the Jim Burke Education Foundation. I knew that Ford Dream Builders volunteer in the community, connect with local leaders, gain leadership training and get the unique opportunity to develop a passion-filled project. The program selects 32 high school seniors from the Kern area each year who are then put into four teams of eight to develop a significant community service project.

Greetings from Bakersfield cover.jpg

Our team is sponsored by Aera Energy LLC. The purpose of the program is to educate students on professionalism, leadership, teamwork and “service above self”. It has been an incredibly enriching experience to bond with other student leaders and make a difference in the community with our service project — a book entitled “Greetings from Bakersfield” which profiles 36 people who have had a positive impact in Bakersfield.

I love the passion in Bakersfield. Through making the “Greetings from Bakersfield” book and interviewing so many different people, our team of eight students was exposed to the incredible people making a change in our community — from professors to pastors to planters. For instance, I met with Kelly Atkinson, who helps run the Edible Schoolyard that provides fresh fruits and vegetables to low-income students. That’s the kind of work that’s inspirational, that’s passionate and that motivates me to also make a difference. I love the example of others who have gone before us in Bakersfield. I’m also impressed with our local university. I think CSUB is sometimes underappreciated when in reality it is a beautiful campus and great school. I often go there to play piano, listen to lectures or attend a cultural performance.

I’m inspired by the change happening in Bakersfield right now — it’s incredible. Dr. Brittney Beck is starting a CSUB program to educate teachers that cultivate civically-engaged and scientifically-literate students. Tahlia Fischer is using wine mixers to save horses. Katherine and Stephen Winters are creating a beautiful community for yoga and spiritual wellness. All of these individuals are an inspiration to me; they’re taking their passion and implementing it in the community to make Bakersfield a better place to live.

Many of my classmates claim they want to leave Bakersfield for college and never come back, and that’s so sad. I see so many bright minds leaving, but there’s so much opportunity already here and so much positive change happening here. The youth are the future, so if a lot of youth leave Bakersfield, we’ll be at a loss of entrepreneurs, trailblazers and innovators that can improve our infrastructure, reduce our air pollution and cultivate Bakersfield as an art hub. However, I remember the interviews our Ford team conducted: many of the citizens featured in our book left Bakersfield initially, only to return years later and rediscover their purpose. I’m hopeful for a bright future in Bakersfield even if my classmates leave.

I hope Bakersfield can keep a forward focus and be open to change. I already see us doing this with the burgeoning theater scene, programs at Cal State Bakersfield and community service organizations such as Dream Builders. Our infrastructure, environmental sustainability, air quality and homelessness are all problems that can be solved, but there has to be a willingness to change. Since I’m interested in biochemistry, I would love to come back and help battle air pollution and make our city more environmentally friendly. I know that Bakersfield can improve itself because I’ve seen first-hand that individuals are making a difference.

Be PASSIONATE in Bakersfield

The Ford Dream Builders and their book, “Greetings from Bakersfield,” were recently featured in the Californian. You can read the article here: Students create book highlighting people who make Bakersfield special.

“Greetings from Bakersfield” is available to purchase at the Kern County Museum gift shop for $25.

You can also download a PDF version of the first half of the book with a donation to the Kern County Museum.

The team’s perspective of their hometown provokes sentimental words from Jack’s father and fellow Be in Bakersfield ambassador Sherod Waite.

If you want to make your home a place that is positive and attracts good people, you have to express positively and be a good representative of it. The Dream Builders program mentors future leaders from this community who will someday represent our home town, whether or not they end up living here or not. Instilling in them a sense of pride and appreciation will benefit everyone and help set an example for the rest of us.  

The youth have always been the hope for a better future for all of us. The adults who live in the community owe it to the younger generation to show a sense of pride for this place we call home. I hope to leave this place a better place than I found it. Seeing what the kids in the program are capable of gives me a huge sense of optimism for the future.

When I asked Jack what he thought of the community project upon completion, his answer couldn’t have been more perfect. He said his favorite lesson learned was that his hometown had plenty of people who have pride in their city and come from a diverse set of areas and upbringings. His experiences getting involved with so many different people from the community changed his perspective positively and will plant in him a sense of pride I hope stays with him for life. As parents, we all want our kids to be a productive part of society and to be able to give back to the place that has given them so much. One of Bakersfield’s top qualities is the giving and generous nature of its citizens. Maybe it’s in the drinking water or maybe it’s because of the community leaders and volunteers that influence kids like my amazing son Jack. I’m proud to have reaped the benefits of growing up here and to now see it help my own kids.  


Let’s support the younger generation and always encourage them to be better than the last!

Learn more about Ford Dream Builders and the Jim Burke Education Foundation here.


Be In Bakersfield