Since 1974, when it was launched with a few thousand dollars in grant funds and based in a Winnebago motor home, the Garden City Community College Adult Learning Center has provided dedicated help and instruction for people seeking their GED high school equivalency diplomas.

Over the years, that fledgling adult basic education program has grown and expanded to meet the changing needs of people in southwest Kansas, with a series of successive homes:

* In a converted service station first, at Main Street and Kansas Avenue, now the Papa John's Pizza location.

* In a pair of storefronts on Eighth Street, in the block just south of Sabine House Apartments.

* In a converted furniture store shared with USD 457, near the west Dillons supermarket.

GCCC Adult Learning Center programs have expanded and adapted, too, always maintaining GED instruction, but also broadening to encompass English as a Second Language classes that serve the community's immigrant population, as well as adding American citizenship assistance, refugee services, family literacy classes and even driver's education.

Two major strides have come in recent years, too. One of those was the relocation of GED and other adult education programs to our main campus, with the opening of the GCCC Student and Community Services Center in 2006. The other was the opening this past January of the GCCC Access and Opportunity Center, to handle the overflow of refugee and ESL students.

GED graduation

Now, adult education at GCCC has reached yet another milestone. For the first time since it began back in 1974, the GED high school equivalency program will host its own graduation ceremony this spring.

That ceremony is set for 2 p.m. May 6 in the main gym of the Dennis Perryman Athletic Complex, and the public is welcome to join in the celebration. GED graduates have been included in the main college commencement each year since 1989, but this will be the first time that they've had the graduation stage all to themselves.

The keynote speakers will be two members of the GED graduating class, each addressing the topic "What Earning a GED Means to Me." They include:

* Maricela Gomez, a GED graduate from the Project Destiny program.

* Brenda Carranco, a graduate of the traditional GED program, which is based at the Adult Learning Center.

The college commencement is scheduled for 10 a.m. May 12, also in the Perryman Athletic Complex.

At the GED commencement on May 6, the graduates, their families and visitors will hear a series of prelude selections, as well as the traditional playing of Edward Elgar's "Pomp and Circumstance." Presentation of the colors will be provided by a southwest Kansas Boy Scout troop, with the National Anthem performed by Rosaleen Amante, a noted member of the GCCC Concert Choir and College Singers. Amante also will provide special music during the ceremony.

Public welcome

Plans call for each graduate to cross the stage and be recognized for completion of his or her GED requirements. In addition, those who qualified for the National GED Honor Society by earning a score of 600 or better on their GED examinations will be given special recognition by Hector Martinez, the Adult Learning Center director.

The ceremony will include remarks on behalf of the college by Cathy McKinley, dean of continuing education and community services, and a welcome from the college president, Herbert Swender.

At GCCC, our GED graduates come from a wide range of backgrounds, and many of them also come from other cultures, including those of Mexico, Vietnam, Burma, Somalia and a number of additional nations. Most have overcome challenges and obstacles to complete their Kansas high school diploma requirements, and many will have children, parents, grandparents and others on hand to cheer and applaud.

We hope you'll be able to join us on campus for the college's 92nd commencement ceremony the morning of May 12, and we also hope you can come and help us honor our GED graduates in their own first dedicated commencement ceremony at 2 p.m. May 6.