49-Year Old Menifee Man Graduates with Associates Degree

Rodney Noeller At age 15, Rodney Noeller dropped out of high school and left his childhood home i...

Rodney Noeller
At age 15, Rodney Noeller dropped out of high school and left his childhood home in Apple Valley. More than 30 years later, tired of working a string of low paying jobs, he returned to school, determined to change his life and earn a college degree.

This May, Noeller, 49, a resident of Menifee, will graduate with an Associate degree in Water Supply Technology from San Bernardino Valley College. He has a near perfect GPA.

In 2009, with a friend’s encouragement, he decided it was time for a fresh start even though he lacked a high school diploma.

“I think a lot of people said I didn’t have a chance at a degree,” Noeller said. “But I’m doing it. I have a plan now, and I stick to it.”

As he waited in line to enroll at the college, Noeller saw a brochure for the Water Supply Technology program and thought it sounded interesting. The program trains students to work in the water or wastewater industries. Students learn about the fundamentals of drinking water distribution and treatment, wastewater collection and treatment, and water conservation. Graduates often work for federal, state, county, or city agencies as well as in the food and beverage industry.

The Water Supply Techonology program, along with other programs, was made possible with the support of Desert Regional Consortium of Community Colleges, a network of 13 community colleges in the desert and Inland Empire regions of California.

On the first day of class, Noeller vowed to his professor Achala Chatterjee, who is now dean of Applied Technology, Transportation, and Culinary Arts, that he would take the General Educational Development Test and graduate with an Associate degree.

“When he told me, I thought to myself, this is probably not going to happen,” Chatterjee said. “But he did it. He’s absolutely amazing.”

Halfway through his first semester, Noeller passed the GED test without any preparation. With Chatterjee’s advice and support, he has obtained the two basic certifications required to work at a drinking water treatment facility — D2 water distribution and T2 water treatment, both issued by the California Department of Public Health.

Noeller hopes to work as a water treatment plant operator after graduation. He said the growth of the water supply technology field in this area makes him confident he will find the job he’s seeking.

The number of water and wastewater occupations in the Inland Empire and Southern California are forecasted to increase 4% and 8%, respectively, according to an Inland Empire/Desert Region Center of Excellence report released in May 2011.

desert regional consortium of community collegesMore information about the Consortium: www.desertcolleges.org

Consortium members: Barstow College, Cerro Coso Community College, Chaffey College, College of the Desert, Copper Mountain College, Crafton Hills College, Mt. San Jacinto College, Moreno Valley College, Norco College, Palo Verde College, Riverside City College, Riverside Community College District, San Bernardino Community College District, San Bernardino Valley College, Victor Valley College

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