Last Saturday, Garden City Community College celebrated its 100th anniversary with food, games and football, bringing together not only students, staff and alumni, but also the greater local community that supports the school and fosters its success.
The event was a collaborative effort in both planning and execution, said GCCC public relations director Ashley Salazar. Centennial organizers served, played with and entertained guests as they celebrated the college’s milestone. During the parade through campus, GCCC public relations and marketing coordinator Shajia Donecker said onlookers could see groups from across campus coming together.
“Seeing that connection between the groups that were involved, our community members that volunteered to be in the parade and the interaction with the crowd really helped bridge that connection that we were trying to create through the whole event,” Donecker said.
That community togetherness is at the heart of both the centennial celebration and GCCC itself, said GCCC president Ryan Ruda. The “community” in “Garden City Community College” is central to the college’s mission, he said, pushing staff to engage, listen and communicate with the surrounding public.
“Having the ability to celebrate with family and the community that supports this great institution allows everyone to enjoy the successes that GCCC has had over the last 100 years. It is a chance to reflect on the history of this great institution, celebrate it in the present, and look forward to influencing the future,” Ruda said.
“This great community has provided funding, support and a strong structure for GCCC, and we must work to keep the community involved and engaged and continuously be responsive to community needs."
A portion of that community has been impacted by GCCC directly. Alumnus Steve Quakenbush, former journalist and current executive director of the Finney County Historical Museum, said that he got interested in news and journalism in high school and then continued his studies at GCCC. Those lessons stuck with him long past graduation, he said.
“A lot of the things I later practiced in the news field, and what I practice today, came from skills that I learned at Garden City Community College,” Quakenbush said.
Donecker, who has worked in various departments at the college since 2012, said the college had impacted her life professionally. The majority of her working life “has been all about Garden City Community College,” she said. It’s been a place to make friends and advance her career, but also a space where she can support a mission she believes in: that “higher education is a benefit for everybody.”
In the wake of the centennial, the college looks toward its next 100 years with plans to add new programs in career and technical education, expand opportunities in the fine arts, focus on STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) programming and renovate campus buildings, Ruda said.
And in the meantime, it will remain an institution Ruda is proud of.
“A life of purpose is the purpose of life,” Ruda said. “This college has taught me the meaning of perseverance and commitment and I am extremely blessed with all of the people and connections that I have made at GCCC. It is a great institution with great people and a very bright future.”