Pierce works with Bethel to make classes more accessible to students

Pierce College and Bethel School District work together to help Running Start and returning adult students attend more classes with less travel time.

Suzanne Buchholz, Senior Reporter

Pierce College is partnering with the Bethel School District to make classes more accessible to students who don’t have transportation to the Puyallup or Fort Steilacoom campuses. The classes are offered at Graham-Kapowsin High School for any Pierce student to attend.

The program was approved at the end of fall quarter and put into effect in winter quarter, with classes not being filled due to being last minute, Jo Ann Baria, vice president of workforce, economic and professional development at Fort Steilacoom, said. Classes being offered this quarter are ENGL&101, COLLG110 and CMST&101.

Spring quarter will feature more classes including ENGL&102, history and math classes as well as a nutrition class for students interested in earning degrees in healthcare.

In addition to prerequisites, the program will also provide English as a Second Language courses. The reason for this is because some people in the region are unemployed or unable to get jobs due to being unable to communicate or who would like to increase language skills, Baria said.

Baria, said the state Legislature conducted a feasibility study for the area to determine if students in the region had access to higher education and what gaps might exist in receiving it. The results revealed that, while students went to college at the same rate as those in Franklin Pierce and Puyallup School District areas, it didn’t account for the fact that many students weren’t able to go to school because of lack of transportation.

“There are a lot of Running Start students who don’t have cars, for example,” Baria said. “A lot of dislocated workers and underemployed adults who don’t have access to transportation because mass transit doesn’t go out there.”

The partnership spans across the Bethel School District as well as in Orting, Eatonville, Roy and McKenna, meaning that students in these areas will be able to participate in the program as well. The Bethel area has been growing lately, Baria said, so there’s been more space to create more resources in that area. Graham-Kapowsin High School, for example, was founded in 2005.

The classes taught at Graham-Kapowsin begin after the high school students’ day ends, at about 3:30 p.m. The first class begins at 4 p.m. and then transitions into an evening schedule similar to the Puyallup and Fort Steilacoom campuses, with some classes ending at around 10 p.m. The classes meet Monday through Thursday.

Pierce is using the classrooms at the high school for free.

“The school district has offered the space for free, which is just lovely,” Baria said. “They’re not even charging us custodial or anything.”

Student Cami Coles said she drives about 20 miles every day to get to Pierce College Puyallup. She graduated from Graham-Kapowsin High School, which is about five minutes away from her home, and said it’d be interesting to go there again for college courses.

“I wouldn’t mind it,” Coles said. “It’d be cool to go back to my old stomping grounds, and it’d be a lot quicker to get to.”

Student Reganne Hoirup said she lives about 20 minutes away from the campus and that the commute isn’t too difficult for her. She thought having the classes at a more local high school would be a huge benefit to younger students who might have trouble traveling to and from far distances to get to different classes.

“I’m a Running Start student and I’m always going back and forth, so it’d be great having them there (at a high school),” Hoirup said.

The program won’t be the first time Pierce has collaborated with Bethel on educational programs. Bethel is the sponsoring district for the Pierce County Skills Center on Canyon Road, which provides career options and training to students.

Pierce and Bethel have partnered on professional technical programs, a veterinary technician program and others through PCSC.

Baria hopes this program will help students in these more rural areas be able to achieve success and earn degrees despite their location.

“I think for students who are working or returning adults who don’t have time to commute here to campus, I think that opens the door for them,” Baria said. “And people who don’t have cars like Running Start students, that opens the door for them. And I think that’s Bethel School District’s interest and the senator’s interest, just to get more people on the pathway.”

The Puyallup Post is the award-winning news media of Pierce College Puyallup in Puyallup, Washington. Copyright The Puyallup Post 2018. Find us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Youtube @thepuyalluppost

Suzanne Buchholz

Pierce works with Bethel to make classes more accessible to students

by Suzanne Buchholz time to read: 3 min