Peace garden meant to inspire next generation of leaders debuts at Bakersfield College

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Oct. 4—In an increasingly divided world, it can sometimes feel as if inner peace is harder and harder to come by. But on Bakersfield College's Panorama campus, peace — both the outward and inward kind — is a little bit closer to reality.

On Monday, BC unveiled the first of what are meant to be many peace gardens at a small ceremony in front of the Grace Van Dyke Bird Library. A melding of eastern and western influences, the Learning Garden features a water fountain centerpiece, with a sunburst design paved into the surrounding plaza meant to symbolize the "energy and grace of the sun" spreading out to the rest of campus.

Inspired by a 2019 Delano meeting between local physician Dr. Naina Patel and Arun Gandhi, grandson of peace icon Mahatma Gandhi, the garden is framed by metal sheets inscribed with a quote from Gandhi meant to inspire the world's next generation of leaders.

"Perhaps, a person comes out inspired to be the next Martin Luther King Jr., Nelson Mandela or Cesar Chavez, or someone goes in and comes out inspired to simply practice Gandhi's principles in their day-to-day life, either way I believe the collective change the learning garden will bring will be revolutionary," Sudha Bhatt, of the The Ravi and Naina Patel Foundation, which helped fund the initiative, said during a ribbon-cutting for the garden on Monday.

Arun Gandhi spoke at the BC and Delano campus in 2019 as part of a tribute to his grandfather's 150th birthday. The Ravi and Naina Patel Foundation, which helped organize the speaking events, hoped to memorialize Gandhi's teachings more permanently following the meeting.

"As we commemorate Mahatma Gandhi's birthday this weekend, we are reminded of his statement 'you must be the change you wish to see in the world,'" Naina Patel said in a statement on Thursday. "Our hope is to encourage others to help in building and transforming our cities, communities and the world by seeking the ideal of harmony the Peace Garden will help foster."

The district plans to expand the gardens throughout the college system. Next up, BC plans to install a second garden next to the humanities building on the Panorama campus. The gardens will complement a peace studies and conflict resolution certificate and degree program the district is developing.

"Everything is coming together," Kern Community College District Chancellor Sonya Christian said. "The landscaping is part of the larger conversation."

Ground broke on the project about a year ago. The location so close to the library is meant to highlight the connection between personal growth and learning. A peace pole that reads "may peace prevail on Earth" sits at the entrance of the garden.

From students overwhelmed with schoolwork, to faculty caught up in their day-to-day responsibilities, the gardens will serve as an oasis from the distractions of the modern world. By providing such a space, BC hopes to create a brighter future.

"My hope is that peace gardens will inspire positive transformation within ourselves and our community," said BC Student Body President Edith Mata, "so Bakersfield College will be a more vibrant, welcoming and prosperous place where every student feels seen and supported."

You can reach Sam Morgen at 661-395-7415. You may also follow him on Twitter @smorgenTBC.

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