LaGuardia Community College’s GED Program Leads to a Career in the Health Field

June 3, 2009–At a time when the Obama administration is urging students who do not have a high school degree to return to school to get that important credential, LaGuardia Community College’s GED Bridge to Health Careers offers a transitional program that prepares students for their GED while they build a foundation for a career in the health field.

Since the program was launched in April 2007, its success in moving students along from a GED diploma to a certificate or degree program far exceeds the national average, which stands at 27%. Out of the 57 students who have taken the GED exam, 65% passed, and, out of that group, 62% either entered college or a certificate program. Nine transferred to college degree programs with six at LaGuardia; nine entered into certification programs as nurses aides, home health aides, pharmaceutical technicians and medical office clinical technicians; and three transferred to other institutions.

“LaGuardia’s GED Bridge Program is a perfect example of the crucial role community colleges play in educating a global population at a time when more people are seeking a college degree that will help them transform their lives,” says LaGuardia President Dr. Gail O. Mellow.

Looking at the program’s impressive track record, Amy Dalsimer, director of Pre-College Academic Programming, attributes its success to the emphasis placed on getting the students to focus on the health career field from the beginning of their GED instruction. “We push into the GED a focus on health careers,” she says. “And we find that the students advance more rapidly into post-secondary education because they develop tangible career goals. They know what they are poised to do upon earning their GED.”

While preparing for the GED exam, students learn about the health care field. The readings focus on health related themes such as nutrition and epidemics. They acquire skills such as critical thinking, note taking, and interpersonal communication that are needed by health care professionals. “As they develop their reading, writing and math skills,” says Linda Chin, program coordinator of the GED Bridge to Health Careers program, ”they also increase their knowledge in the health care field.”

LaGuardia makes it easy for them to take that next step once they earn the GED. A strong support service network, which includes one-on-one personal, college and career counseling, and career planning seminars complements the curriculum. The team of available career counselors and college advisors at LaGuardia work with students to help identify college and vocational programs in their careers of interest. Once the students pass the GED, they are free to apply to any training program focusing on the health-care field. LaGuardia’s ACE Division offers several certificate and degree programs in the health field: A student can get certification as a home health aide, certified nurses aide, pharmaceutical technician, medical office clinical technician, phlebotomist and licensed practical nurse. College degree programs include pre-nursing, occupational and physical therapy, veterinary technology and EMT/paramedic.

“Once a student gets his or her GED,” says Jane MacKillop, associate dean of LaGuardia Community College’s Division of Adult and Continuing Education, “doors to health careers will open.”

Shirley Alvia, a GED graduate, said that she was hesitant in enrolling in the program because she was unsuccessful in passing the GED exam at another center. But at her husband’s insistence she enrolled in the program in September of 2008. She went on to pass the GED exam in December of that year and the next month entered one of the College’s Prehospital Care Programs and is now studying to be a Medical Office Technician.

“I am so glad that I went through the program,” said Shirley, who noted that when she graduates in June she plans on working in a clinic for one year and then return to LaGuardia’s nursing program. “My goal is to become a labor and delivery nurse.”

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Located in Long Island City, Queens in New York City, LaGuardia Community College, part of the City University of New York, is a nationally recognized leader among community colleges. Founded in 1971, the College has been recognized as an innovator in educating students who are under prepared for college work and/or are not primary English speakers. A catalyst for development in western Queens and beyond, LaGuardia serves New Yorkers and immigrants from 160 countries through 50 majors and certificate programs, enabling career advancement and transfer to four-year colleges at twice the national average. Visit to learn more.