Moffat County GED student excels after decades away from formal schooling |

Moffat County GED student excels after decades away from formal schooling

Vaughn Doherty, along with other students, seek GED to improve professional prospects

Michael Neary
Vaughn Doherty earned his GED at Colorado Northwestern Community College in February, with a college-ready performance score on his test.
Michael Neary

— A couple of decades away from formal schooling do not make it impossible to return. That’s something that Vaughn Doherty discovered when he decided to study for his GED degree after leaving high school in the early 1990s. He came back to school, and he excelled.

Doherty resolved to pursue the GED when the work he’d been relying on for a steady income had, over time, stopped being reliable. Doherty had been working on construction jobs for years — and for one spell of time, he drove a truck for an oil field service company.

“The work got slow,” he said.

And so Doherty, who’d left high school in the early 1990s, returned to school. At the time, Doherty explained, he’d become a new father and needed to seek work.

“I’ve been pretty much in construction since high school,” he said. “I was always able to get a job. But now my priorities are a little different, and I’m trying to find a more stable job. And a lot of the stable jobs, especially around here, require a GED.”

Doherty, 42, received financial help through the Colorado Workforce Center to pay for the final comprehensive GED test at Colorado Northwestern Community College in Craig. When he took his GED pre-assessment tests in December, he performed well in all areas except for math — a subject that would become his focus for a couple of months.

Doherty, who lives outside of Maybell, said much of the GED preparation could have been done online, but with spotty rural Internet connection at home he decided to go to the college instead.

He welcomed the personal contact.

“It was really helpful for me to use the computers and Internet here, and the support of Melissa (Dowd) and Denise (Perdue),” he said.

Dowd is the director of Adult Basic Education at the college, and Perdue is the director of Developmental Education.

Dowd said there are about 45 students in the college’s Adult Basic Education program, including about 15 GED students. She said many of the GED students, of varying age ranges, are looking to find more substantial work than what they’ve landed so far.

“They think getting their GED is going to be that first step into something different, which it will be,” she said.

Doherty earned his GED in February, with a college-ready performance score on his test. That’s a notch up from simply passing the test.

As Doherty prepared, he plunged into various sorts of math problems, dusting off knowledge that had been latent for about 25 years. But not all of the work involved resuscitating old high school knowledge. Doherty has worked in construction over the years — and so he’s had to use, on the job, some of the subject matter he studied for his GED.

“The geometry part of it was easier for me,” he said. “And figuring out area and square footage — I knew how to do that.”

Some of the most demanding work, he said, involved learning to craft the problems correctly, as well as learning to find final answers.

“You’ve got to pull information out of a paragraph and make an equation before solving it,” he said. “That was a challenge.”

Doherty is looking for work as soon as he can find it. But now that he’s begun to delve, once again, into studying and learning, he may also continue with his education.

“It helped me realize it wasn’t impossible,” he said. “I’m interested in learning; I enjoy learning. So I might be back here.”

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