Ever since quitting high school a quarter of a century ago, Medford resident Danny Brotton has taken whatever jobs were available.
"I've done fast food all over the place," says Brotton, 41. "I've worked in the casinos in Las Vegas. ... I worked in automotive parts stores for 15 years in Ohio and Las Vegas."
Although he never ran out of work, there was always something in the back of his mind: He wanted to return to the classroom to obtain a high school diploma.
"It's something I've wanted to do since I left school," he says.
Brotton will do that today when he receives a general equivalency diploma through Rogue Community College.
Ceremonies begin at 11 a.m. at its Redwood Campus, 3345 Redwood Highway, Grants Pass.
Not only is he getting a GED, he is one of the featured speakers at the ceremony. All told, there are 274 students from Jackson County and another 85 from Josephine County receiving their GEDs from the college.
They will be among more than 1,000 students receiving degrees today on the campus, where nearly 750 will be handed degrees for completing college coursework at RCC.
Receiving his GED is a major step in his life, said Brotton, who was attending Port Orford High School on the Southern Oregon coast when he dropped out.
"I quit high school when I was 16 — I thought I knew everything," he says. "I fell into the wrong crowd and didn't care about school at that time."
Brotton, who began studying for his GED at the college's Riverside Campus in Medford last year, said he decided to get his foot in the educational door after developing medical issues at work.
"I couldn't do the lifting anymore so I moved home to my parents," he said of William and Dale Brotton of Medford.
That was last summer. He checked in at RCC.
"I took tests to see where I scored and where I would fit," he says. "I started taking some classes. And it all started coming back.
"I really wasn't apprehensive — I was excited about finally getting it done," he adds. "I wanted it over with and out of the way."
He completed his final GED exam at the end of April. In fact, he breezed through the five required GED examinations that included math, reading, science, social studies and writing, according to RCC officials.
"Everybody at RCC was wonderful," he says. "They were great to work with."
Had RCC not existed, he figures it would have been more difficult to complete his GED requirements and prepare to move on to college.
"I gained a new respect for the value of an education and will take that with me as I further my education," he said.
While he is still fine tuning his future plans, he says it will include more education and working with children.
"I want to work with kids, to teach them that dropping out of school is not the right thing to do," he says. "I want to tell them that, if they stay in school, they will have less of a struggle later on.
"With education, there are so many opportunities," he adds, extending his arms wide open. "You can do so much with your life with an education."
The college's 42nd annual commencement for those graduating with RCC degrees begins at 6:30 p.m. today at the Redwood Campus in Grants Pass. The evening commencement will include a record 744 students, including 472 from Jackson County and 252 from Josephine County. The previous high was 680 receiving degrees.
For more information, check out www.roguecc.edu/Graduation/Commencement.asp.
Reach reporter Paul Fattig at 776-4496 or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.