Big Dreams Take Time: WHCL’s GED Program Lends Support

Don’t be surprised if you see a sign reading, “Kasondra Jobe: Attorney at Law” in the future. The 37-year-old Hanford resident has big dreams — and she’s a lot closer to achieving them, thanks to a little help from West Hills College Lemoore.

In May, Jobe earned her GED (General Equivalency Diploma) through a free program at West Hills. Now, she’s on track to receive an associate degree, with law school on the horizon.

It’s the kind of life that felt out of reach for her. She spent 18 years trying to earn a high school equivalency while working and raising a family. Although Jobe was smart and hardworking, her lack of education held her back.

“All these doors have been opening for me since I walked into the GED Lab,” she says. “The instructors helped find the right kind of learning style for me, and it’s made a huge difference. My whole life, soul and body has done a complete 360. Now, I’m a ball of dynamite!”

Her story is the kind of success the program aims for. The GED Lab is open five days a week, and staffed with West Hills instructors who work with students individually to prepare them for all four sections of the GED exam. At any given time, there are about 40 students enrolled in the program, and new students can sign up any time.

“Prior to this, I felt alone doing it. I was already embarrassed, trying to go get my GED again and again,” Jobe says. “But the difference was this was at a college — I saw other people going to classes and I thought, ‘That could be me!’ It was inspiring to see where I could be heading.”

After about 18 months in the program, Jobe passed the final portion of the exam and participated in the college’s first GED Graduation Ceremony earlier this year. The six-student graduating class became close over the months by working alongside each other, often bringing in group snacks to the lab and relying on one another for support.

“I would drive 20 minutes to be in the lab every day. I didn’t feel like I was in the school; it felt like a second home,” Jobe says. “The flexibility was great because my daughter is in preschool, and the environment was so warm and welcoming. If I wasn’t there for three days, someone would be calling me and asking if everything is OK. I never felt like I was going through it alone.”

The camaraderie and a personalized push toward success is the hallmark of the program, says Sue Warner, dean of educational services.

“That attitude is West Hills College Lemoore. We are a community college that really has students’ best interests at heart. We get to know our students. We have faculty who are innovative and really here to help change lives,” she says. “The vast majority of our students are older, and we know that coming back after so many years to complete a high school diploma is a major accomplishment. Seeing the students after they pass the exam, their self-confidence is amazing. It’s why we do this.”

And the support doesn’t stop after the exam. The program introduces students to opportunities to further education.

“Because it’s here on a college campus, we have advisors and counselors come in and talk to the students about how to apply to college, different career tracks that are available and how to get financial aid,” she says. “We have library workers talk with them about how to use a college library. We take our GED students to the Career Technical Education (CTE) program workshops. They receive a lot of information and support to move forward.”

For Jobe, a new life includes giving back to the community that helped her reach new heights.

“Being that I’m older, I’ve become an example,” she said. “I still poke my head into the lab and talk to the girls who are there now and give them support. It’s in the past, but it’s also my present, and I see a big bright future ahead of me.”

WHCL GED Graduation 2018:Student Perspective