Meet a Futuremaker

Returning adult student Clint Dehnert shares his experiences as a returning adult student who earned a GED and then an associate degree.



6 min 40 sec


Interview with Clint Dehnert
Madison College (6:40)


Announcer: This is Making Futures; helping individuals discover their passion and fulfill their potential.


Interviewer: Today I'll be talking with Clint Dehnert, a returning adult student who completed his high school diploma and went on to earn an Associate degree.

Interviewer: When did you leave high school, and why?

Clint: I left high school after my senior year in the spring of 1990. I completed high school but I was two credits short and I already had a job and I just went full time because I like money more than I liked homework. Somehow, it made sense to me at the time.

Interviewer: And what kind of work have you been doing since high school.

Clint: I have been a diesel mechanic for 20 years. For the path I took in life, I feel very fortunate to have had as good a career as I did. I started out in the trucking industry and from there it kind of progressed into the construction industry, but for 20 years I had various jobs as a mechanic, and made pretty good money for not having a high school diploma.

Interviewer: So what made you want to further your education?

Clint: I got laid off in spring of 2009 and I knew I needed to get my HSED or GED on the resume to even get an interview with the recession and the economic times that we were in. And once I got it in college and started kind of going back to school for that. For me it was easier than working for a living with the recession and stuff you really have to be on your toes and kind of bust your butt to keep any kind of job security. And reading a book and taking a test was a lot easier, so I decided to go back to school and get my college degree.

Interviewer: But first you had to finish that, the GED as you said. How difficult was that?

Clint: For me it was pretty easy. It was more of a mental challenge I just turned 40 years old; I was 37 when I started this journey. It was more the mental side of, you know, friends would ask me, ‘what are you doing this weekend?’ and I'm like ‘I have homework.’ ‘What are you doing tomorrow?’ ‘I'm going to school.’ It just didn't seem right because those words had not come out of my mouth in so long, so that was the biggest thing. I had, like I said, I finished high school I just didn't graduate. I didn't have any … I didn't have to make up any credits. I had enough credits. All I had to do was go in and test. It took me, I think, two or three appointments to get all the tests written, passed right away, scheduled the Compass test. Did well on that as far as going on to college. It all happened pretty quick.

Interviewer: Were there challenges though, along the way here?

Clint: Yeah, I was not a very good student when I was in school 20 years ago. And so much has changed, even since then with computers and Microsoft and everything. Three years ago I couldn't type. Just the path that I took, everything just seemed to help me and be a tool for me to succeed. The challenges were getting up to speed on good study habits, note taking, testing, learning how to type. In the very beginning I feel that it took me probably twice as long to do a homework assignment as anybody else. And the biggest thing for me was learning the time management. I didn't really know what the teachers expected so I just tried to go over the top and when I could write a one-page paper I'd be writing a two-page paper. That was the biggest challenges; figuring out what they expected when they said what they wanted.

Interviewer: How did your college help you to get through these challenges?

Clint: I've had so many little signs along the way that I was on the right path. You know, I'd get reassurance from the teachers whether it was in a meeting or little comment sections along with the homework … And a lot of reassurance from the teachers.

Interviewer: What program have you been pursuing and what are your goals for the future?

Clint: I graduate with an associate degree in marketing with honors. In the future, my dream job is in the motocross field. I'd love to work with amateur kids in the motocross racing industry. For now I'm working with some product development ideas with a guy that I'm working for right now, I'm actually running machine shop equipment, but he's wanting to develop in-house products and stuff. That's ideal, the product development. Being a mechanic, ideas pop in my head, and that's kind of what pushed me towards the marketing besides my personality, was with how you make a dollar off of these ideas. And once I figured out that that was marketing and marketing covered anything from sales to advertising and anything in between, I went at it like a bull in a china shop and I've thoroughly enjoyed every day of it. It … it's helped me, it's completely given me a new skill set. I'm way more professional than in the past.

Interviewer: What advice do you have for people like yourself who may be hesitant to go back to school?

Clint: When you go into it, you have to be dedicated and goal-oriented on getting that degree. I believe it's 64 credits to graduate; 63 credits does you no good. You'll learn some skills that could help you in your current job, but you gotta see it through to the end. On one hand it seems so long ago that I took typing but yet at the same time, it has gone by so quick. You just gotta go into the school. You just have to make that appointment and talk to somebody and see what the first step is. Whether it's a Compass test or your general education classes – depending on where you're coming from and what you've done already. It sounds cliché but it's just doin' it. There are so many people that will help you. Counselors, information, they'll tell you where to go. You'll know exactly what to do. They walk you through the whole process. Anything I needed to know, somebody would meet with you, talk to you and get you back on track and pointed in the right direction.

Interviewer: Thanks so much for talking with me today.

Clint: Thank you for the opportunity to share my story.

Announcer: Making Futures is a presentation of Wisconsin's 16 Technical Colleges. Thanks for listening.