Christa Begin discusses a writing assignment with teacher Leigh Sutherland at the Red Barn. Photo by Sara Thompson, KP News

Janine Motts eyes light up when she talks about the changes in adult education that Tacoma Community College (TCC) is bringing to Gig Harbor and the Key Peninsula. Mott, TCC executive director for the Gig Harbor Campus and Continuing Education, discussed the innovations in Adult Basic Education, which is more commonly known as the GED program.

TCC has had an adult basic education program for at least 15 years, with support from the Gig Harbor Garden Tour (gigharborgardentour.org/toursroots.htm) since 1998. Mott said that until recently, the program focused only on GED test preparation. Over time two trends have surfaced: Potential employers, if given two equivalent applicants, will prefer the one with a high school diploma over one with a GED; in addition the GED test is becoming more difficult to pass.

Enrollment was spotty by late 2013. TCC cancelled the winter 2014 class to reassess and make changes. The new program opened the following spring.

The TCC basic skills department redesigned the curriculum with the goal to offer a learning experience that went beyond teaching to the test and would give students the opportunity to see themselves as lifelong learners. In addition, students do more then get a GED ––they can enter a high school completion program.

The class was relocated –– the Red Barn offered space and was more central than the Home fire station.

The new course includes two classes. Each class — read/write and math — meets twice a week for two hours. Students meet with an advisor prior to registration to review transcripts and job experience in order to understand their individual needs.

Tony Sincich, attending his second quarter, quit high school in his senior year. “It just wasnt for me,” he said. After two years of working, he was too old to participate in programs offered through the high school. He thinks this program is great, citing the one-on-one attention, flexibility and lower pressure. He appreciates being able to pace himself, and plans to continue to work toward his high school diploma with electives at the Tacoma campus after this quarter.

Garrett Loney dropped out after the ninth grade. As with Sincich, high school was not a good fit. He, too, loves the program. He thinks the small size helps kids who may have trouble focusing. He plans to take the GED test at the end of the quarter, then wants to go to the Tacoma campus to complete his high school diploma and get an associate degree.

Mott discussed technology and its role. “It is not the only answer,” she stated. “Using technology in outreach takes both skill and access, and access can be a real problem in more rural communities. But we also know that we must develop those skills for adults to be successful.” For that reason the program purchased 15 laptops, which students receive for the quarter, along with an email account through TCC.

How is the new program working? “We are very pleased,” said Mott. With a target of 15 to 25, current enrollment is 12, so there is capacity for more. And she noted, “This quarter we have six students who returned for a second quarter. That simply never happened before. It is huge and we are thrilled.”

Aaron Murphy, attending his first quarter, was enthusiastic. He dropped out after his junior year because he needed to work, and more recently moved to the Key Peninsula. He has a quote from Benjamin Franklin that means a lot to him: “If you do tomorrow what you did today, you will get tomorrow what you got today.” With that in mind, he decided it was time to “change it up” — joining the adult basic education program for high school credit and a diploma is “pretty cool.” “And the schedule still lets me work here at the Red Barn in the afternoons,” he said.

Want to know more?

Visit the TCC Gig Harbor website at tacomacc.edu/abouttcc/ourcampuses/gigharborcampus/adulteducationhighschoolcompletion, or call (253) 460-2424.

Tuition is $25 a quarter though students may be eligible for a waiver. There is also a $4 fee for course materials.

Interested in Adult Continuing Education? Visit the TCC Continuing Education at continuingedtacoma.com, or call (253) 460-2424.

Longbranch Improvement Club
Michelle Caldier, 26th District representative