Education center celebrates graduates

Jill Way
Dodge City Daily Globe
Graduates of the Dodge City Learning Center pose with their diplomas presented by Jacque Feist on Saturday, July 19. Pictured are, front row from left to right: Yolanda E. Romero, Maria Esther Santiago Frias, Bridgett Michelle Schlereth, Itzel Amayrany Tagle Carreto, Jose Guillermo Villalta-Velasquez. Back row, from left to right: Jorge Alberto Delgado, John Lundblade, Yesenia Martinez, Daniel Medina Campos. Graduates not pictured: Elizabeth and Amber Albert, Miguel Barron, Jordon Bedwell, Stephanie Bolduc, Casey Conley, Faith Davis, Ariadne Diaz Rivera, Shad Dowd, Joanna Holguin, Bryan Mejia Arroyave, Melissa Perez Salas, Natalie Ruiz, Mary Lee Santiago Arce, Diana Solorzano.

Despite a challenging end to the school year and the threat of a global pandemic, a local education center focused on helping students overcome their own challenges recently celebrated its 2020 graduates.

Pam Gleason with the Dodge City Adult Education Center said nine of the center’s 24 graduates, who had completed 21 credit hours, received their diplomas in a graduation ceremony on Sunday, July 19, at the Dodge City High School Auditorium.

Due to the COVID-19 crisis, the center implemented some restrictions during the ceremony, Gleason said.

“We did social distance the families and graduates, wore masks and didn't have the reception after the graduation,” she said.

During the ceremony, motivational speaker Joe Coles gave graduates a word of encouragement, emphasizing “what they accomplished getting their high school diplomas,” Gleason said.

Coles told the graduates the achievement not only affects them today, “but could make a difference to others down the road in their family and other families,” she said.

The speaker told the graduates they hold both their diplomas and the power to decide what they do with it in their hands, she said.

Gleason said this year’s graduates have a wide range of plans for life after graduation.

“Some have moved to new adventures in New York, Florida, Wichita and Fort Scott,” she said.

Some plan to jump right into the workforce to save money for college in the future, Gleason said, while others plan to head straight into pursuits in higher education at two-year and four-year colleges.

Overcoming hurdles

The Dodge City Adult Education Center is a partnership between the Southwest Plains Regional Service Center in Sublette and the Dodge City School District, USD 443, Gleason said. It’s been open since 2001.

The computer-based program, which features flexible hours so students can work at their own pace, is available to anyone 18 and older who wants to earn a Dodge City High School diploma. It caters to both English and Spanish speakers.

“This program allows adults to finish their requirements to get their Dodge City High School diploma to better themselves and their lives,” Gleason said.

She added that several adult learning centers have closed in recent years, making the work at Dodge City Education Center even more important.

“Our mission is to provide the support and assistance to a student so they can be successful in reaching their goals,” Gleason said.

When the new coronavirus pandemic hit in the spring, Gleason said the center shut its doors on Monday, March 30, and has been closed since.

“When the governor started her reopening phases, which was around the end of May, we could meet an interested person by appointment at the center to enroll them,” she said.

But, not having the building open for face-to-face interaction with current students was hard.

While students could work remotely as usual on their classes, they missed in-person communication with Gleason and the center’s paraprofessionals.

“Our students had the challenges of balancing a new lifestyle,” she said. “They had to figure out when to work on their class while teaching their own children and working.”

Gleason said the education center will continue to jump over the hurdles brought on by the pandemic in the coming school year.

She said the center will be open for enrollment for the 2020-21 school year from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 6, and Friday, Aug. 7.

Then, on Monday, Aug. 10, the center will resume regular hours of 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.

“Students will be asked to wear a mask, use hand sanitizer and social distance themselves from others,” Gleason said. “Then the computer areas will be wiped down when a student leaves the center.”

The center is located in the Village Square Mall in Dodge City. For more information, contact the Dodge City Adult Education Center at 620-225-5239.