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Their stories were within her grasp

Photos and Story by

Janet Salmonson

Janet Salmonson made a difference in many students’ lives as a volunteer tutor at the Sylvania Campus. Now, she is using those success stories to spread the word on the value of education at any age.

Salmonson collected the best and most dramatic stories of students overcoming life problems to become a success by earning their GED and published them in her book, "Their Reach Exceeds Their Grasp." It’s not only Salmonson’s first book, but the only book in the country profiling GED graduates, according to the American Council on Education.

"I was a volunteer tutor for two years and was inspired by their drive and their desire to learn," Salmonson said. "They were all highly motivated. They inspired me to write the book containing ten chapters with ten stories."

The 61-page book includes poignant and inspiring stories of everyday and dramatic success, such as for Pamela Transue, who went back to school to earn her GED and has gone on to become president of Tacoma Community College. Transue was an executive dean with PCC while Salmonson wrote the book.

"Most students were not sure they could fulfill the requirements to obtain a certificate," she wrote in her preface on how the students transformed. "In a short time, as they discovered they could learn, visible transformations took place, which inspired me to write this book."

The book is so popular with instructors that a teacher’s guide, written by Laurie Trybom (GED instructor) was published to help them teach the book to students. The guide is free of charge.

Widowed at age 55, Salmonson went on to earn a master’s degree in literature three years later in 1980 from Portland State University. In the mid-1980s, she came to PCC’s Sylvania Campus to tutor for two years. It worked out well as she and the only other tutor at the time combined their skills. "The teacher was good at math, but wasn’t so in English and of course I was strongest in English," Salmonson recalled.

When her daughter caught wind of all of the stories her mother was experiencing, she prodded her to write a book. So she did and it took her the next six years to complete it.

Janet Salmonson

Her book is so popular now it’s going into a second printing. Along with the new guide, her efforts and those of her past students will get a new life.

"Teachers like the book, but teaching it is another thing," Salmonson added. "I’m happy for them. The whole reason I did this was to tutor."

The need for the book is not only national but also international. During the last three years, the American Council on Education, who besides heading the GED program in America, has set up 50 GED testing stations worldwide. ACE has also sent the addresses of the European testing stations to Salmonson for contacting them to sell her book. The proceeds from the book are committed to the Brehm GED Fund, administered by the PCC Foundation.

You can pick up your copy of "Their Reach Exceeds their Grasp," at any PCC Bookstore. PCC Bookstore.

About James Hill

James G. Hill, an award-winning journalist and public relations writer, has been the Communications Specialist for the Office of Public Affairs at Portland Community College since November of 1999. A graduate of Portland State University, J... more »

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