Former Nevada County dropout says going back to school to finish studies worth the work
If she was ever prevented professionally from doing something, she would return to high school.
That’s what Amanda Rodgers told herself after dropping out of Nevada Union decades ago.
But Rodgers was never inhibited professionally or socially by her educational status.
Through the years, she went on to work at KVMR community radio, for tech companies, a nonprofit and went on to run her own computer consulting practice.
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Still, at 50 years old and new motivations pushing her, Rodgers returned to school and finished dozens of credits in a handful of months at Nevada Union Adult Education.
She graduated in 2018 — the same year her daughter graduated from Nevada Union High School.
NOT STRUCTURED BUT ORGANIZED
At the age of 10, Rodgers moved to Ananda Village to live and learn. While in the community, Rodgers was immersed in an experimental, non-structured learning environment that was sometimes a bit random.
For example, Rodgers said, “Someone went to India and came back and decided Vedic math was the thing we were going to learn.”
In the late ’70s and early ’80s, Rodgers said electricity was limited in the community and there wasn’t much access to the outside world. So at the age of 15, when she left the village, what she had in openness and dynamism, she lacked in traditional classroom knowledge.
“It was a huge culture shock for me,” she said of moving to town and going to Nevada Union High School.
Not fully understanding the norms, rules and goals of a mainstream high school, Rodgers quickly fell behind, lost interest in school and dropped out.
Finding work at Nevada City’s KVMR radio station, Rodgers said she took her education into her own hands, personally delving into topics related to history and technology. What drove her was the desire to make up for lost lesson plans and structured projects in the classroom. She would watch the History channel, she said, in addition to various documentaries and read books about U.S. presidents.
“Because, all my life I didn’t know what I wasn’t taught,” she said, “I learned everything — because I didn’t want to miss anything.”
At KVMR, while informally educated, she was organized, and uploaded the membership’s database onto the upgraded system, which is how she learned about computers. Rodgers also worked as a sound engineer and hosted music shows on the air. Working long, tireless hours then and through her professional career — a few sources spoke to Rodgers’ impregnable work ethic — she found ways to navigate through doorways she feared would never open.
“If I can’t get there, I’m sure I’m going to meet somebody along the way, or work with somebody or for somebody that’s going to teach me,” said Rodgers. “And so I used every single job experience as a teaching experience because I knew I didn’t finish high school.”
The next section of Rodgers life seemed to flow quickly. A few of her family members died in a short period of time. She moved down to the Bay Area, finding work with the help of friends at a Mac computer store in Palo Alto.
“That’s how I became a computer nerd,” she said, “because I was riding the wave of all this technology and personal computing becoming a thing — and I was in the thick of it.”
At 30, Rodgers left California for Georgia to work with a radio station, doing its morning show while simultaneously working for a technology company. She helped build up the company from two to 85 people, she said, and then, at its zenith, returned home for Nevada County.
At 33, she had a daughter and, as a single mother, began working from home, operating her own consulting company that helped improve the user interface experience of customers.
The idea of returning to high school never occurred to Rodgers until many years later when her first child was attending high school. Rodgers was pushing her daughter during her junior year to progress in school when she began to feel a pang of hypocrisy.
“I don’t even have one of these and I expect (my daughter) to get one? I don’t think so,” said Rodgers.
While most of Rodgers’ friends didn’t realize she never completed high school, she said she still felt a slight stigma about returning to get her diploma at Nevada Union Adult Education.
“How are people going to look at me? I’m 50 years old,” she said.
However, she wasn’t associated with any shame upon entering the classroom doors, said Rodgers.
This is intentional, according to Nevada Union Adult Education’s Beth Huseby. The teacher works to ease students’ fears and actively facilitates bonds not just between teacher and student but also weaves connections between students themselves.
“I think being able to connect, to develop a relationship, that develops into something more where people feel accountable,” said Huseby.
With Huseby’s help, Rodgers was able to complete the program within a few months. She was moving through the courses quicker than the average student who takes 40 to 50 hours to finish them, said Huseby.
“It wasn’t hard. It was weird,” said Rodgers, who, falling back on her user interface knowledge, was evaluating the computer databases and consulting Huseby on how it could be improved while completing the Nevada Union program.
After finishing the program, Rodgers has already been encouraging other former drop outs, including one friend in her 70s, to finish return to high school and get her diploma.
“I don’t know if people understand how easy it is now,” she said, referencing helpful teachers as well a campus devoid of stigma.
Her daughter was hardly shocked by her mother’s accomplishment.
“When I found out my mom was going to finish high school I wasn’t surprised at all,” Madison Rodgers wrote in an email to The Union. “My mom has always loved education she just never got the chance to finish.”
While Huseby acknowledged Rodgers is an anomalous student, she’s seen many people navigate a similar path, returning to school and, if committed, accomplishing their goals.
“The hardest thing is walking in the door,” said Huseby.
After watching her mom walk across the stage and get her diploma, Madison Rodgers fully anticipates her to continue on in school. Amanda Rodgers is considering furthering her education in business, or possibly history, one day becoming a librarian.
“Now,” said Rodgers. “I want a degree.”
But only, she said, if the time is right.
To contact Staff Writer Sam Corey, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 530-477-4219.
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