No high school diploma? Don't worry, GCC and Guam National Guard got you
By Aurora Kohn
The Guam National Guard and the Guam Community College have signed a memorandum of understanding to launch the GED Plus Program and Workforce Development Partnership, which will facilitate free job training for those without high school diplomas.
The joint program provides a pathway for island residents who didn't complete secondary education to earn a high school equivalency diploma and later join the National Guard, entailing no cost to the participant.
Another program under the project enables members of the Guam National Guard to participate in hands-on job training and acquire certifications for in-demand careers free of charge to successful applicants.
“Our recruiting and retention battalion led by Lt. Col. Steve Warren and the Command Surgeon Rosario talked to talented people at GCC and came up with some great ideas where our missions at the Guam Guard and GCC intersect," Major Gen. Esther J.C. Aguigui, GUNG's adjutant general, said during the MOU signing at the Barrigada Readiness Center on Saturday.
Aguigui said the project was driven by the need to help Guam’s economy and workforce “get back on track.”
"Our organizations both want our people to succeed, and we both want to offer educational and job training opportunities and we both rely on our strong community partnerships," Aguigui said.
Mary Okada, GCC president, said the Covid-19 pandemic has created opportunities for “collaboration and partnership.”
She said GCC's continuing education department under Assistant Director Denise Mendiola has developed a series of boot camps.
“Instead of waiting for the education to be completed to find an employer, it brought the employer to the forefront of the conversation and said, 'help us build a program that can help you identify individuals for your industry,'” Okada said.
Students who have completed GCC's boot camps for shipyard repair, cybersecurity, health and child care were immediately hired by local companies.
In September 2021, GCC was awarded first runner-up in the U.S. Department of Education's Rethink Adult Education Challenge for its marine transportation ship repair boot camp program. GCC was selected from 203 entries representing 31 states, the District of Columbia and Guam.
In its May 2022 Citizen-Centric Report, GCC said its work-ready boot camps have become "a model for successful job training, for engaging its private sector partners throughout the process, from designing the curriculum, to selecting participants, ensuring that completers are hired into their apprenticeship program."
Okada said GCC was grateful to have partnered with the GUNG to assist residents who need help to get into good careers with the Guam National Guard and “support their families and contribute to their island community.”
Lt. Col. Warren said Guam statistics show that there at least 5,700 young people between 18 and 34 are without a high school diploma.
The joint project will help these persons meet eligibility requirements for the National Guard when they receive their general equivalency diploma through GCC.
Three of the first participants in the program attended the event.
James Cabrera said he was joining the program to fulfill a lifelong dream to serve in the military.
Calvin Castro said he wanted "to better himself and be a better role model for his children and to protect and serve my island.”
Joe Cynthia Guerrero, mother of three boys, wants to get her equivalency diploma and join the National Guard so she can provide a better life for her children.