CNCC programs offer gateway to GED, higher education |

CNCC programs offer gateway to GED, higher education

Lauren Blair
New to Colorado Northwestern Community College in Craig, Director of Developmental Education Denise Perdue and Director of Adult Basic Education Melissa Dowd both aim to help students take their educations to the next level. Dowd's focus is on supporting under-resourced local residents in getting their GED diploma, while Perdue is helping to lay the foundation for a college education for students needing extra support.
Lauren Blair

— Doors are opening for students looking to further their educations, whether it be to obtain a GED diploma or to prepare for college-level courses.

Colorado Northwestern Community College has launched into the new school year with fresh faces and new ideas behind its adult basic education and developmental education programs. Once both a part of the Adult Learning Assistance Program, the now separate programs have two new directors at the helm, in part thanks to grants the college received at the end of last year.

The first change implemented by Director of Developmental Education Denise Perdue was the rechristening of the ALAP Center on the Craig campus as the Gateway Center, a name that can now be found in Rangely as well.

“It’s no longer a place that describes where you are; we promote where you’re going and where you want to be,” Perdue said. “It’s not just stopping here and then you’re done, the door’s open still for you to keep moving.”

Working in tandem with Perdue is Director of Adult Basic Education Melissa Dowd, whose main focus is recruiting and helping students to obtain their GED diploma, as well as launching a new English as a Second Language program.

The GED program derives funding from a three-year, renewable Adult Education and Family Literacy grant, administered by the Colorado Department of Education. Besides providing for software and other basic framework, grant money can also be used to help students to address obstacles that may keep them from pursuing their education, such as transportation to and from the campus or even childcare.

“The program takes them where they are,” Dean of Instruction Donna Theimer said. “It’s an open door policy and anyone can enroll if they want to.”

The community-based education program also draws on community partners to create a full network of support services for students. Not only can students be referred to the college by local organizations — including the Community Budget Center, Love INC, the Workforce Center, United Way’s Bridges Out of Poverty, Mind Springs Health and Moffat County Social Services, Probation or Vocational Rehabilitation — but they can also be referred to those programs if they’re struggling to meet a certain need.

Ultimately, the goal is to help under-educated and under-resourced students take a step forward in their lives.

“We really want to transcend the GED,” Dowd said. “That’s just a step in the goal to help these individuals become better employed… to give them that pathway to a better career.”

Nineteen-year-old Robert Woodward, who moved to Craig in March to be with his parents, spends a few hours a day about four days per week working his way through the computer-based program.

“I really needed this so I could progress in life,” Woodward said. “You’re not going to feel like people are judging you and looking down on you, everybody’s really helpful, they want to help you.”

While Dowd’s focus is largely helping people attain a basic education to become more workforce-ready, Perdue works to steer students in the developmental education program towards pursuing a college degree.

The program is structured more like college classes, with 15-week courses currently offered in basic math and English to not only get students up to speed, but to get them how to think on a college level.

“How do you think about whatever comes before you, how do you interpret that new knowledge, how do you interpret what you’ve known and what are you going to do with it now?” Perdue asked.

Whereas some students used to have to complete up to two years of developmental education before they were ready for college courses, both Theimer and Perdue are working to speed up the process.

“The intention is to get them into classes in as short amount of time as possible,” Theimer said. “We have to make sure they’re ready for college but we don’t have to spend forever for them to get there.”

Contact Lauren Blair at 970-875-1794 or or follow her on Twitter @CDP_Education.

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