Three Lake Oswego students earn their GED
by: Submitted photo, Dr. Linda Gerber, president, PCC Sylvania Campus, addresses graduates at this year’s GED graduation ceremony on June 7.

There was standing room only when Lake Oswego residents Natalie Crow, Leah Strong and Mack Knoth graduated along with 160 of their peers from the Portland Community College GED program. The ceremony was held at the Performing Arts Center on the Sylvania Campus on June 7.

The ceremony is one of the largest GED graduations in the Portland area and the largest of the PCC campuses. The graduation rate for the PCC - Sylvania program is 56 percent. Across the country, GED programs average a 15 percent graduation rate.

After an open microphone session where students - and their friends and families - could speak about this year's graduates, attendees watched a PowerPoint presentation and the presentation of diplomas, followed by the tassel ceremony and a reception.

Joe Urbina, GED instructor and department chair for Adult Basic Education and GED at Sylvania, is excited to see the program's success. This year, there were about 350 unduplicated students in the program. There were seven Lake Oswego residents in the program. Sylvania's enrollment is the second smallest by PCC campus. The Southeast campus enrolls nearly 1600 each year and graduates even fewer than Sylvania.

Urbina thinks that the private graduation ceremony at the Sylvania campus may be a more visible motivator than rolling the students into the mass of graduates that walk at the Memorial Colliseum for PCC's associates program each year.

'What normally is done is they all go to one main graduation at the Memorial Coliseum,' said Urbina. 'But virtually none of my students went because they couldn't understand the connection. It was getting very few students there. I just independently decided to start having graduations here and administration said it was fine.'

The student body is about 70 percent at-risk youth and 30 percent adults over the age of 21.

A typical graduate has completed two terms in the PCC's program.

'Obviously it varies,' said Urbina. 'I've had people there for three years, I've had people there for five weeks.'

One thing that Urbina attributes to Sylvania's success is the class structure, which is unique to the campus. Students attend comprehensive classes, where one instructor teachers five subjects. The program is supported by a staff of six instructors.

'They get to know that instructor really well. They feel closer and feel safer with that one instructor that they have,' said Urbina.

To earn a GED, a student must pass a test in five subject areas: writing, social studies, science, literature and arts/reading and math.

Once a student graduates from the program, PCC offers them 12 tuition-free credits in the associate degree program.

For more information about PCC's GED program, visit

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