The face of the future: rising enrollment brings hope to RCC

The swelling enrollment rates means many new faces at RCC, and the fastest-growing demographic is returning adults with a renewed sense of direction

By Amy LaPerle
Byline Staff

Do you need a new beginning?

With enrollment up 29 percent from last year, RCC has become a hot-spot for locals in search of a place to set their dreams in motion.

For the last seven years Reggie Jones, 47, has owned a small detailing business for commercial vehicles. Unfortunately the business went under.

“There’s already many people with a lot of skill and experience but in this economy you need a more skilled trade,” Jones said. “The more schooling you have the better off you are.

Since Jones got out of high school, he attended college off and on, but because the economy is in a shambles he is thinking he will need a specialized skill, and a degree to back it up.

When he got out of high school, Jones was a soldier in the Army for three years, although he does not qualify for any Veterans Affairs funding under Chapter 31 and is going to school on his own dime. This is disappointing, but it’s not stopping his desire to be a chef. It is Jones’ first semester here at RCC, and he is working on his bachelor’s degree in culinary arts. This should take three years, then he hopes to transfer to the Art Institute of Portland.

Melinda Gill, 45, spent the last 10 years working for a commercial laundry service. Now, she says she wants to become a physical therapist, and laundry is a thing of the past. With one and a half years of schooling until she’s done at RCC, she plans on transferring to a school in Portland to complete her training.

“I very much enjoy helping people get well,” said Gill, who is excited for the future, both hers and her family.

Brian Sullivan, 43, is back in school to enhance his skills in the area he loves: working on cars. In his youth he served a term in the Army, so Sullivan never finished school. Instead, he got his GED and has been receiving disability since 1999. Since then he’s worked as a mechanic, so he says he’s a bit rusty on his study skills, and it has taken him some time to get caught up. As a veteran, Sullivan is one of the many students receiving funding from Chapter 31 for disabled veterans benefits.

“Go to school full time, get paid full money. Go part time, get half — or even less — in benefits,” Sullivan said.

The resume of Elias Zachary Cranewalker, 36, is varied: Military Police Corps, the Nevada Department of Transportation, and for the past 15 years, the Ashland Food Co-op. Now, he’s at RCC, planning for a career in archaeology.

“This goal will take me 8 years”, Cranewalker said. “I have been planning this for years.”

Cranewalker also doesn’t qualify for Chapter 31, although that’s not stopping him from getting financial support. Cranewalker is receiving the Pell grant and the unemployment grant.

For the last eight years, Henry Winters, 53, has been homeless, on the streets, completely away from society. Before that, Winters was a mailman for 11 years.His new dream is to become an addiction therapist.

“I want to help as many and any that I can, but would especially enjoy working with the homeless,” Winters said.

He plans to receive his Bachelor of Science degree in about a year and a half, then transfer to SOU for two more years.

Winters is receiving funding from Chapter 31-veterans affairs and the Pell grant, and he is also involved in a number of other programs, including Nicotine Anonymous. A new man has bloomed, Winters said.

“If you saw me last year, you would be in awe,” Winters said. “You wouldn’t recognize me.”

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One response to “The face of the future: rising enrollment brings hope to RCC

  1. I too, am an older student returning to R.C.C. for higher education. I want to appaude Amy for this story. She has shown exempliary writting skills on this article. Thanks, Amy.

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