Communications Manager

When LaChanda Thomas first contacted the Adult Transitions Pathways program at Washtenaw Community College, she had one goal in mind — complete a GED. The 43-year-old Belleville resident didn’t realize the program offered much more, nor that its staff would push her to reach her much greater potential.

Fast forward.

LaChanda Thomas working in a Sterile Processing lab.

“Now, here I am, a little more than one year later, with a GED, a college certificate in a high-demand career and a full-time job with benefits at St. Joseph Mercy Hospital,” Thomas says. “I would never even had considered this opportunity without the knowledge, support and problem-solving that WCC offered every step of the way.”

Adult Transitions director Bonnie Truhn says it’s time to change the image of adult education. Her program is not only about earning a GED. It’s about building academic skills that can lead to further education, learning digital literacy skills that prepare students for the modern workforce, and introducing soft skills that will enhance a student’s chance at a prosperous future career.

The program serves approximately 400 academically under-prepared and economically disadvantaged students per year at three locations — the WCC main campus in Ann Arbor, the Harriet Street Center in Ypsilanti and the Ypsilanti Township Community Center. It uses an Integrated Education and Training teaching model that allows GED students to co-enroll in select WCC certificate programs.

Thomas attended WCC’s Adult Transitions program while dual-enrolled in the college’s new, one-year Central Sterile Processing certificate program that prepares students to work in the health care field with the processing and sterilization of surgical instruments, supplies and equipment.

So how did the woman who was only seeking a GED fare in a college health sciences program? She earned her certificate, will take her national certifying exam this month, and was invited to be the student speaker at the first Sterile Processing Pinning Ceremony.

“Now my goal is to move forward with my job and education,” Thomas said. “I want to earn my associate degree at WCC in Surgical Tech. My credits from the Sterile Processing certificate will apply to my next degree.”

Kim Jones, a 41-year-old Ypsilanti resident, is following in Thomas’ footsteps.

The recent Adult Transitions graduate is enrolled in the Sterile Processing program for the Fall 2018 semester.

“Attending the Adult Transitions program inspired me to continue to further my education so that I can make a better life for me and my family,” Jones said. “After I got my GED, I would just very much like to continue my career pathway by attending college and becoming a better role model for my kids.”

Truhn said that, along with Sterile Processing, the Adult Transitions program will also be encouraging its students to investigate the one-year Introduction to Manufacturing Processes certificate beginning this fall. There’s also a Microsoft credential available to adult education students.

“We believe the key to student success in all of these programs is the support services we offer every student,” Truhn said. “We help with academic support, emotional support, childcare, transportation, the process of enrolling … there are often roadblocks that just don’t disappear when a student earns a credential. We’re trying to help them learn how to better navigate those roadblocks. We often provide support well beyond the scope of their initial enrollment in our program.”