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 that will provide enlistment opportunities for residents who don’t have high school diplomas.
Officials said the joint project 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 obtain certifications for in-demand careers free of charge to applicants.
“Our recruiting and retention battalion, led by Lt. Col. Steve Warren and Command Sgt. Maj. Tylbot 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.
Dr. Mary Okada, GCC president, said the Covid-19 pandemic has created opportunities for “collaboration and partnership.”
She said GCC was grateful to engage in a partnership with GUNG to assist residents wishing to get into good careers with the National Guard and “support their families and contribute to their island community.”
Warren said Guam statistics show that there are at least 5,700 young people in the 18-34 age group who don't have high school diplomas.
The joint project will help these people meet eligibility requirements for the National Guard when they receive their general equivalency diploma through GCC, Warren said.
Okada said GCC’s continuing education department 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 trained in GCC’s boot camps for shipyard repair, cybersecurity as well as health and childcare were immediately hired by local companies after completing their training.
GCC’s boot camps won first runner-up in the U.S. Department of Education’s Rethink Adult Education Challenge.
Three of the first participants of the GED Plus Program attended the MOU signing.
James Cabrera said he was joining the program to fulfill a lifelong dream to serve in the military.
Calvin Castro said he wants to better himself and "be a better role model for his children" and "to protect and serve my island.”
Joe Cynthia Aguero, a mother of three boys, wants to join the National Guard so she can provide a better life for her children.