Story by SrA Anthony Nin Leclerec on 07/10/2019Gulf Coast State College (GCSC) kicked off their first class since Hurricane Michael on Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida, June 20, 2019.
Tyndall AFB and GCSC have a partnership which allows students to attain a Community College of the Air Force certification and other associates and/or bachelors degrees.
GCSC provides an avenue for students who feel like the College Level Examination Program (CLEP) and DANTES Subject Standardized Tests (DSST) is not the right venue of education for them.
"I had great guidance from the education center to figure out how to go about my studies," said Senior Airman Jose Rivera, 325th Force Support Squadron food service journeyman. "I struggle with english as a subject, so having an actual teacher and not just a book helps out a lot."
According to Gretta Preston, Gulf Coast State College coordinator for military services, while both the CLEP and DSST are great tools, students depend solely on independent studies to progress with these methods. GCSC on the other hand, offers face to face classes for students who don't mind the longer drive and online courses at the education center with a teacher on screen.
"I usually like to have a teacher in front of me for learning," said U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Aaniyah Adams, 325th FSS official mail technician. "[With GCSC] I get off work, eat, change and get back on base [for the online course]. It's more efficient, my work is just down the street."
Adams said she was very happy for the classes to have started again. When Hurricane Michael struck the base, she had to withdraw from the class due to the immense damage caused to the installation. Eight months later, she was able to enroll for the class again.
"[To guide the student] we map out the program with our institution and see if we have the courses that are in line with what the Airman is already doing." Preston said. "If we don't have the courses, I assist the student in researching to find an institution that will offer the needed courses. Like this, GCSC can become the parent school and the student becomes a transient at the other institution to gain the credits for that program."
Preston normally advises students to have a tuition assistance briefing with the specialist first. Then she looks at whether or not the Airman's job is transferable to civilian if they separate; if not, together they determine what the student is interested in doing and form the degree path.
Active duty members can use tuition assistance for the tuition, but it does not cover the fees. For this, GCSC offers a scholarship to offset the cost.
"We had the Thanks a Million Campaign' where we held fund raisers and received a lot of donations over several years," Preston said. "We raised over a million dollars for the benefit of our active duty members."
These funds cover things outside the realm of tuition assistance such as car repairs, child care and books. The intent is to help members who receive aid overcome certain challenges that rise when pursuing their degree.
"Right now, I'm just doing my general studies," Adams said. "But one day, I want to major in psychology and become a counselor or therapist."
For more information, please call (850) 769-1511 ext. 2910.