When a student could be called away at a moment’s notice to protect people and homes all over California from an array of natural disasters, they need flexibility, support, and collaboration.
Currently, 120 firefighters and camp participants across 10 CDCR Conservation Camps are enrolled in the Camp GED program. Coursework is offered online, in-person, and through independent study packets. Instruction is led by the Sierra Conservation Center’s (SCC) Adult Education Teacher for Camps, Lisa Salyer.
“Before I began, the GED camp program mainly consisted of packets being sent out to campers. This type of delivery can be difficult for those who might struggle with independent learning,” said Salyer.
The GED program shut down briefly when its previous instructor and coordinator retired in June 2022. Salyer, a former elementary school teacher and California Correctional Center (CCC) librarian, picked up the program in January 2023 and has molded it to fit her students and meet them where they are.
Team education effort benefits camp participants
Camp participants are required to complete academics alongside their camp duties; however, they can do so at their own pace and on their own time. Salyer says her students work through their lessons much faster after fire season is over.
In addition to independent study, Salyer also offers two-hour virtual tutoring classes three days a week, with plans to expand to meet her students’ needs. Beyond tutoring hours, students can also reach out to her through their Camp Commander with specific questions about their schoolwork.
Salyer says she’s already seeing an improvement. “Based on the feedback that I have received from my students they are benefiting from this type of instruction, especially in math.”
A high school diploma is not required to participate in CDCR’s Conservation Camp Program. However, at many camps, including Trinity River in Lewiston, getting a well-rounded education isn’t simply an option; it’s an expectation.
“If you’re on my team, you need to know what you’re doing. To know what you’re doing, you need an education,” said Camp Commander Lt. Ed Oberst.
“This program is a success because of the team effort between SCC education, the camp office, and the camp staff. People like Lt. Oberst make it easy because of his support,” said Salyer.
When students earn their GED, camp staff prints a certificate and holds a small gathering with whoever is on duty to celebrate their academic achievement. If they wish, the graduate can also be included in SCC’s bi-yearly graduation ceremony and invite their family to attend.
Earning a GED can be a stepping stone for those who want to pursue their associate degree through the college program, also offered through SCC and partnerships with Columbia Community College, Coastline Community College, and Lake Tahoe Community College.
All CDCR institutions provide the opportunity to earn a high school diploma or GED. Both prepare students to continue their education through career technical education or college courses.
By Tessa Outhyse, Information Officer
Office of Public and Employee Communications