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WNCC celebrates National Adult Education Week

September 25, 2018

SCOTTSBLUFF — For more than 60 years, Western Nebraska Community College has been offering Adult Education classes to those who did not complete their high school diploma or for adults wanting to learn English as a second language (ESL).

The Adult Education program not only assists students in earning a GED, it helps them understand the impact an education can have on their future. For instance, on average, those with a high school diploma equivalent earn nearly $10,000 more annually, according to U.S. Census data.

Still, most students enter the WNCC Adult Education program a bit skeptical. It is not uncommon for the students to have had a poor experience with school earlier in life, so they often bring an element of fear and self-doubt, said WNCC Adult Education Director Mary Kay Versen.

“So to even walk through the door is a huge undertaking for most of our students” Versen said.

To combat those negative emotions, the Adult Education program implemented a positive reinforcement initiative over the last 10 years. Those positive reinforcements include benefits like restaurant gift cards, oil change coupons and free haircuts — all donated by local businesses.

This year, in conjunction with National Adult Education Week, WNCC is recognizing five local businesses that have donated to the Adult Education program for 10 years in a row. Those businesses are Taco Johns, Domino’s Pizza, Pizza Hut, KFC and Dairy Queen.

“The importance these businesses play, and they don’t realize it, is flipping that negative emotion,” said Sara Demoret, WNCC’s Adult Education volunteer coordinator.

Those five businesses, which will receive a plaque for their 10-year commitment, are five of nearly 40 businesses that support the program with donations. That amount of support has been a spark of motivation for many of the Adult Education students.

Earning a GED certificate is a grueling journey for most, Versen said. In fact, according to a study done by Educate & Elevate — a campaign collaboration between the Coalition on Adult Basic Education (COABE) and the National Council of State Directors of Adult Education (NCSDAE) — 46 percent of high school graduates cannot pass the full GED test. Therefore, knowing the community cares has been essential, Versen said.

“When we tell the students that the community supports them, because they realize how important it is, they light up little beams and there is a sense of pride and value,” Versen said. “It’s what helps them when the road becomes long and tough. It helps get them over the edge to go the whole way.”

The incentive initiative requires the students to also write a thank-you note to those businesses, which has given the community a vested interest in the program, Demoret said. Plus, Demoret frequently keeps these businesses up-to-date on how the students are progressing through the program.

“They still have to have the self-motivation and the commitment to be there to get it done, but sometimes it’s a lot easier to do something when you have at least a few positive emotions in your life, as opposed to all negative emotions,” Demoret said. “That has been the real value of the program to our students.”

For more information on the WNCC Adult Education program, contact Versen at versenm@wncc.edu. To donate toward the positive reinforcement initiative, contact Demoret at demorets@wncc.edu.

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