Garden City Community College has been serving the people of Southwest Kansas since 1919, and the success of the institution often is reflected in the success of the students and graduates who rely on the courses, programs and services that we offer.

A large number of those individuals, of course, are residents of Finney County. However, GCCC is also the primary source for higher education to individuals from many other communities across southwest Kansas and beyond.

GCCC's official service area for credit courses includes all of the following counties, for instance: Finney, Greeley, Kearny, Hamilton, Lane, Scott and Wichita.

That doesn't mean that we educate students only from this seven-county region, since we normally have individuals from 50 to 60 Kansas counties enrolled on our campus, but it does mean that we offer Outreach courses in many of the communities of these counties. In addition, you'll find that in any given semester, more than 80 percent of our students call this seven-county area home.

We're proud of that connection, and it wouldn't be much of a stretch to refer to GCCC as the Community College of Southwest Kansas. The excellence that our students attain in performance and competition comes, in many ways, from the communities we serve.

Success from many communities

For example:

* Our College Players organization returned recently from the Regional Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival, with each member finishing in the top three to five places in the first round of competition. That included GCCC students from Hays, Liberal, Holcomb, Sublette, Ingalls and Garden City.

* The GCCC meats team has launched its 2012 competition season, after concluding the 2011 season as reserve national champions. The reserve champion U.S. team included GCCC students from Satanta, Meade, Holcomb and Garden City.

* The GCCC Academic Excellence Challenge team has earned the right to attend national tournament competition in Florida at the end of the month. The team includes members from Holcomb and Garden City.

* The determined young men and women on our Broncbuster athletic teams include students from Ashland, Clearwater, Colby, Copeland, Deerfield, Dodge City, Elkhart, Great Bend, Hoxie, Johnson City, Lakin, Leoti, Liberal, Minneola, Oakley, Plains, Sharon Springs, Sublette, Syracuse and Ulysses, as well as Holcomb and Garden City.

* Students from Sublette, Ingalls, Ulysses, Liberal, Lakin and Garden City are presenting our spring semester dinner theater production, "Almost Maine," which is taking place Thursday through Sunday in the auditorium of the Pauline Joyce Fine Arts Building.

Art gallery to rodeo arena

* The Archie Oliver Painting Exhibition, which is open through Feb. 25 at Mercer Gallery, is showcasing the work of a respected art instructor from Holcomb High School, as well as a number of his accomplished former HHS students.

* When our annual Valentine concert took place last week, also in the Pauline Joyce Fine Arts Building, the voices blending in song belonged to students from Ashland, Cimarron, Dighton, Jetmore, Johnson City, Lakin, Liberal and Minneola, as well as Plains, Kismet, Scott City, Tribune, Holcomb and Garden City.

* High school students from various Future Farmers of America chapters converged earlier this month on our campus in the Southwest District FFA Career Development Contest. We had the honor of hosting competitors from Cimarron, Garden City, Holcomb, Jetmore, Ness City, Scott Community, Southwestern Heights and Western Plains high schools.

* The GCCC rodeo team is in action across the Central Plains Region of the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association, and in addition to students from other states, the contenders hoping to qualify for the College National Finals Rodeo include men and women from Syracuse, Ashland, Satanta, Ingalls, Dodge City, Leoti, Sublette, Holcomb and Garden City.

* When our latest honor rolls were issued last month by the GCCC Registrar's Office, they included names from Syracuse, Jetmore, Scott City, Ulysses, Tribune, Johnson City, Elkhart, Cimarron, Ulysses, Dighton, Leoti, Sublette, Satanta, Deerfield, Lakin and dozens of other cities and towns, as well as Holcomb and Garden City.

* The GCCC Criminal Justice, Fire Science and Emergency Medical Services Technology programs hosted a crowd of excited young visitors just last week, including the entire sixth-grade class of Lakin, and the guests also visited other program areas, ranging from nursing to cosmetology.

All over the map

There are plenty of other examples, too, and even more will be emerging as the current spring semester continues.

In fact, when our 92nd commencement ceremony takes place in May, it's a sure bet that the crowd gathered inside the Dennis Perryman Athletic Complex will be a representative microcosm of western Kansas.

GCCC's mission is to help people become positive contributors to society and the economy, and that's true for people from just about every community on the map.