When Randy Butler of Rockingham was in high school, he made a good income working part-time in construction. He didn’t see a need for an education when he enjoyed what he was doing, so he quit high school and began working full-time. That worked just fine until the economy shifted and construction jobs dried up.
“I told myself it was time to get a GED,” said Butler. “I don’t like being in crowded rooms, so the online program Richmond Community College offered worked just fine for me. While she was working with me, Mrs. (Dianne) Brigman asked me if there was anything else I was interested in studying, and I told her welding.”
Brigman, an Online GED instructor, knew about an upcoming, short-term welding course and made contacts with the Sandhills Community Action program to see if they could pay Butler’s tuition. He qualified and was enrolled a short while later. It was a perfect fit; he had an aptitude for learning the techniques and caught on quickly.
“After I got my GED and was taking my welding classes, they were holding interviews for welders at the Cole Auditorium. Ferrofab worked through the college to get applicants. I applied and two weeks later had a job. I am very happy doing what I am doing. My life is back on track,” said Butler.
He said he highly recommends anyone who doesn’t have a high school diploma to visit RCC to earn a GED.
“I went from looking for jobs to having a job find me. Having completed my GED and learning a new skill has made the biggest difference in my life,” he said.
Brigman said Butler was a great student who would come to class after a day of roofing and go home and complete every assignment she gave him. She said he completed his GED in six months and went into the welding course the last week of study. She wishes all students could be as focused and determined as he is.
Ferrofab plant manager Malcolm McLester said he is impressed with Butler.
“He is a good worker. It doesn’t matter what you ask him to do, he’ll tackle it,” he said.
Another Online GED graduate whose life turned around after getting her diploma is Lisa O’Neal of Rockingham. She worked in the fast food industry throughout high school and stayed in that line of work after an illness kept her from graduating high school with her class. She simply never went back to finish.
“I started the GED classes off and on and passed two or three of the tests, but wasn’t dedicated to it. In 2008, I decided there were no other job opportunities available to me without my GED and a college education, so I tried the online program. I thought it would be the best fit, and it turned out to be the most convenient class for me. If I had any questions, I could always go to the James Building and see Mrs. Brigman for assistance,” she said.
She said Brigman would always get back with her about any questions she had and would call her if any time lapsed without her working on her goal.
“She is such a sweetheart. She’d call and say, ‘Lisa, you’re such a smart girl, don’t give up on this.’ If she wasn’t there, I could have easily have fallen back where I was. She’s a big reason I finished,” said O’Neal.
Brigman’s prodding worked. O”Neal completed her remaining GED tests and enrolled in the Healthcare Management Technology program in 2009.
“My mom and sister are both in health care. I wanted to do something to help people, but not in a nursing role. My sister does admissions and billing, so when she suggested the Healthcare Management program, I decided to try it,” she said.
She admits it was scary going into a college classroom, but said she soon got over her apprehension of creating PowerPoint presentations and doing college-level work. Brigman is proud of her and adds she was often on the honor’s list as a college student.
“I think RCC is a great college,” she said. “The instructors have students’ best interests at heart. I got a lot of good experience there and am glad I decided to go,” said O’Neal.
Following graduation, she accepted a receptionist position with Richmond County Hospice. When a position opened for a volunteer coordinator, she was offered the job. It’s a perfect match for her.
“I place volunteers in homes with patients and their families. It is a very rewarding job that I really enjoy. I feel like I am helping people and making a difference. If anyone out there is without a high school diploma, I strongly urged them to go back and get a GED plus some college experience. You really need it to find a good job in today’s world,” she said.
The Online GED program is free. Anyone interested can contact Brigman at 410-1782.