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Dylan Orton is passionate about education

Dylan Orton

When Dylan Orton completed her first Rogue Community College class, Human Relations in Organizations, she was pleasantly shocked to have earned an A-plus. “I thought, ‘Not to brag, but this is something I might be able to do,’” she recalled. “I’ve been surprised about how well suited I am for higher learning. I realized that with time and effort I would succeed.”

Second term, same grade; Orton’s efforts had begun building the stellar track record that has earned her selection to the 2013 Oregon Community College Association’s (OCCA) All Oregon Academic team.

Based on classroom excellence and community service, she’s one of two honor scholars selected from a field of students nominated by RCC instructors. The OCCA, in partnership with Phi Theta Kappa (PTK) International Honor Society, sponsors the award, which includes a $1,000 scholarship to an Oregon public university

“Dylan is very serious in her pursuit of education,” said Dr. Randy Wade, chairman of the RCC Business Technology Department. “She has a desire to learn, not only to better herself, but also to help others.”

Orton, 29, is majoring in business technology and computer security. “I’m passionate about educational opportunities,” says Orton, whose own learning path hasn’t always been smooth. Due to family circumstances, she attended elementary, middle and high school only sporadically and without much success or support. Eventually, at age 13, she became homeless. But at 16, Orton began studying at RCC for her GED and passed the exams in 2000. Subsequently, she got a job, her own apartment, and a bike. She took placement tests at 17, but unaware of financial aid opportunities, she didn’t pursue college. Nine years later, however, she began taking one evening class per term, paying out of her own pocket.

“It was time to do it or stop beating myself up.” Orton explained. Then she learned about and applied for scholarships through the RCC Foundation, and received several awards that allowed her to pursue more than one class at a time. “For me college is my chance to succeed academically and professionally,” she said. She also appreciates the guidance and mentorship she’s receiving from RCC faculty members.

“Instructors are so giving of their time and open to requests. I am grateful for the learning experiences and relationships,” said Orton, who plans to “pay it forward.” Her goals include helping teen parents continue their education, and she hopes her story will encourage other young people. “I feel like an ambassador for RCC, and I encourage students to pursue scholarships and financial aid and help them ask the right questions,” Orton said. “I’ve walked this road, so I can really understand.”

Orton, who serves as president of the RCC chapter of PTK and is a student worker for the foundation, also volunteers for local non-profit organizations such as Habitat for Humanity. She and her husband are raising their 3-year old, Charles, and checking off goals in their five-year planner: their son, a new home, a good car, “and I’m rocking through college!”

Have a story idea for the website? Please E-mail Rand Hill