TCC GED students Kim Barrett, Nick Gerou and Sam Smith study toward the group’s graduation ceremony scheduled for June 14 at Evergreen Elementary. Photo by Hugh McMillan

The Volunteer Literacy Program at Tacoma Community College’s Gig Harbor campus has provided literacy and basic skills education to local residents since 1989. The program offers one-on-one tutoring to students in basic skills and English as a second language (ESL). All instruction is provided by trained volunteer tutors. The tutor and student work together toward the student’s goals two to four hours per week.

Among the program’s activities, each Tuesday and Thursday from 10 a.m. to noon, GED classes are conducted at the Key Peninsula Fire Department’s station in Home. The students are serious. They work hard. They want to succeed and to attend the group’s graduation ceremony, complete with caps and gowns, on June 14, 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., at Evergreen Elementary.

Doris Harshman, TCC teacher who instructs at the Washington Corrections Center for Women in Purdy, also handles the program at the Home fire station. She said, “All of my present students at the fire station are from the Key Peninsula.”

Linda Creswell, TCC’s adult basic education coordinator, advised that the school is seeking volunteers. “We are looking for a tutor who is comfortable with basic math skills to go once a week, Tuesday or Thursday, from 10 a.m. to noon to the GED class at the Home fire station to help students with their math. This allows the teacher to focus on other students for that amount of time. There are only a few weeks left in the quarter and, perhaps, if someone comes forward to give this a try, they will like it enough to come back in the fall. We are always looking for tutors and students.”

Many students needing basic skills or ESL education cannot afford to pay for private tutoring. This program is the link they need to advance toward their personal, family and work-related goals. Student achievements include learning to read, helping with a child’s schoolwork, placing phone calls to doctors, reading prescriptions, getting a job, reading to a child, obtaining a library card and passing the GED test. Once students receive the help they need, they can also gain admission into regular  classes at TCC by passing the college entrance test.

“I would recommend this class to anyone,” said Lorrie Moulton, who recently earned her GED certificate. She enrolled in the GED class in October 2006. In January, she successfully passed the five GED tests and enrolled at TCC to study automated accounting. A mother of three, Moulton is described by Harshman as “hard working and goal oriented.”

Moulton explained, “Receiving my GED certificate was a boost to my self-esteem and gave me a feeling of accomplishment. I am proud that I can put on a job application that I have completed my GED.”

Her next goal is to receive a college degree. She will be the first college graduate in her family. Because of her positive experience and the help she received in her GED class, she would like to be a volunteer tutor when she finishes her schooling. “This is my way of expressing my gratitude and giving back,” Moulton said.

Zach Seeley, another GED student, said, “I got into this class so I can get my GED and then get into an apprentice program and get a two-year diploma. It’s a great course and it’s fun. You actually learn things. So do it!”

More than 100 students per year are served by this program. Trained tutors volunteer their time and talents. The Gig Harbor Campus provides office space and administration. The TCC Foundation provides fundraising assistance. The cost of the five GED tests is free to anyone who attends the current class. To register, contact Linda Creswell at 851-2424.

“If we can successfully stimulate interest in the program, we will promote the fall class, get students appraised, pre-tested, and registered before the class actually begins, which will be on Sept. 25,” Creswell said. “There is no charge for the class or the testing and students can get a scholarship to pay the $75 GED testing fee when they are ready to take it.”

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