Jerry Kane, 61, has two big regrets. One, that he didn’t serve in the military, and two, that he didn’t graduate from high school.
But as of last week, he rectified the latter.
Thanks to a partnership between the Spokane County Library District and Community Colleges of Spokane, Kane received his GED.
“I was young and dumb and dropped out of high school and got married at 17,” he said.
By 18, he was supporting his growing family as a truck driver, a career he truly loved.
“It was a passion,” Kane said. “My dad and brothers were truckers.”
Three years ago, a tragic accident ended his career.
“A driver under the influence hit me head on,” he said.
Though he wasn’t at fault, the multiple fatality crash quashed his passion for trucking. He wasn’t ready to retire, but he knew his lack of a high school diploma would hamper his search for a new career.
So, Kane, a Clayton, Washington, resident, visited the Deer Park Library, and discovered he could earn his GED right there at the library.
Stacey Goddard, District Library Services manager for SCLD, said the district was approached by Community Colleges of Spokane two years ago.
“They didn’t have a presence in the West Plains, and we had the capacity to offer space,” she said.
The launch of the GED program at the Cheney branch in 2016 was an immediate success.
“Within the first month, 12 students were enrolled,” Goddard said.
And soon more classes were added to more branches.
“We’ve been at Deer Park almost a year,” said Brianna Dirks, instructor for Community Colleges of Spokane. “It’s been a really neat partnership with the library.”
GED, High School 21+ and an ESL class are offered at various county library locations.
Students can enroll at any time and complete all of the classwork right at the branches.
“I don’t think I would have driven into Spokane to get my GED,” Kane said.
He also appreciated how comfortable Dirks made him feel.
“I was the oldest guy there and some were younger than my grandkids,” he said. “But Brianna was helpful and encouraging.”
Dirks said she enjoys her work.
“My youngest student is 15 and the oldest is 61,” she said. “It’s rewarding because these students are so driven to do the work. They want to succeed.”
She said the GED program meets students wherever they are on their path to a diploma, while the High School 21+ program involves evaluating the transcript from the high school the student would have graduated from, and the year they would have graduated, and helping them meet those requirements. Students in that program must be lacking 10 credits or less.
“It’s kind of neat because sometimes work experience can be used for credit,” Dirks said, adding the fee for the classes is $25 per quarter, but many students are eligible for tuition waivers.
Goddard said the partnership between libraries and colleges matches the mission of the Spokane County Library District to “build community by connecting people to educational, economic, and recreational opportunities.”
“If you don’t have a GED or diploma, so many doors are closed to you,” she said. “Hopefully, we can open those doors.”
Kane admitted tackling the program was intimidating, but he’s glad he didn’t let intimidation stand in his way.
“He has worked so hard,” Dirks said. “It’s never too late. I have a student in her 50s who wants to go to college and become a clinical psychologist.”
Indeed, Kane isn’t done with his education. He’s planning to continue his studies at Spokane Community College.
“My six kids, all adults, are quite proud of me,” he said.
And he’s pretty pleased with himself.
“It’s a nice, warm feeling to know that I did it.”
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