Regional businesses and industries rely upon Garden City Community College to educate and train the current and future work forces of southwest Kansas.

Among GCCC's workforce development efforts are several programs that focus upon a population of first-generation college students. This means that the students' parents did not attend college. A high number of Finney County's future employees fall into this category.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, as of 2011, approximately 30 percent of the population of Finney County had not attained a high school diploma. It is important to note that only about 30 percent of children of parents without a high school diploma will go to college. Furthermore, the Nielson Group estimates that 17 percent of the Finney County population has some college but no degree, and only 9 percent has earned an associate's degree.

According to a 2012 Socioeconomic Impact Study conducted by Economic Modeling Specialists Inc., by 2021, it is anticipated that there will be about 5,900 new and replacement jobs in the GCCC service area. About 22 percent of these jobs will require an education level equal to an associate's degree or greater. Another 7 percent of available jobs will require some kind of postsecondary or vocational certificate. These statistics indicate the education of first-generation college students is key to the prosperity of our Kansas economy.

GCCC has programs in place to support and encourage the educational development of disadvantaged and first-generation college students. These programs include Educational Talent Search, Student Support Services and Project KANCO. ETS and SSS are programs within the government's TRiO grants. KANCO is a College Assistance Migrant Program (CAMP) also funded by the U.S. Department of Education. These federal outreach and student services programs are designed to identify and provide services from disadvantaged backgrounds.

ETS is a free federal grant program sponsored by GCCC. The program is designed to encourage participants to remain in school, earn their high school diplomas and pursue postsecondary education. Talent Search at GCCC is open to more than 630 eligible students of USD 457 at the sixth through 12th grade levels. The program's advisors work in our local schools to provide services that include tutoring, mentoring, career counseling, college visits, financial aid application assistance and parent workshops.

The GCCC Student Support Services program serves more than 200 undergraduate students by providing free services, including academic tutoring, course selection assistance, counseling to improve financial and economic literacy, and application assistance to four-year schools. Eligible students must be enrolled at GCCC and meet one of the following criteria: first-generation college student, student with disability or meet family income requirements. Project KANCO serves migrant students in partnership with Garden City Community College, Kansas State University and Colorado State University. Project KANCO offers assistance in starting college to qualified, incoming freshman students. Assistance includes laptop computers, books and materials, and scholarships. Students must meet migrant eligibility standards to qualify for these services.

GCCC also helps adult learners seeking to further their education by offering programs through our Adult Learning Center, Project Destiny and various workforce development programs. At the Adult Learning Center, adult learners can earn a GED, learn English and gain knowledge to attain U.S. citizenship. More than 800 adults study at the college's ALC every year. With classes scheduled mornings, afternoons and evenings, the ALC accommodates the working and family schedules of these dedicated adults.

Project Destiny, which also is funded by the Department of Education, is a High school Equivalency Program that provides Spanish and English instruction to migrant workers in southwest Kansas. Destiny instructors teach GED classes in Garden City, Ulysses, Leoti, Scott City, Syracuse and Lakin.

Studies show that, over a work life, earnings for a worker with a college degree compared with one who had just a high school diploma are doubled. This translates to an increase in economic activity and therefore increased revenue for any given community. Basically, a better educated workforce benefits not only the individual but the entire community in which they reside. According to a 2012 National Center for Education report, 58 percent of GCCC students remain in our service area and 21 percent remain in Kansas.

As president of an institution of higher learning, it is important to continue our commitment to deliver positive contributors to the economic and social well-being of society. Our motto is important, "From here you can go anywhere." Thank you for your support to GCCC!