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Duane Murphy

photo of Duane Murphy

Freelance Web Designer
MurfsMagic Web Design and
Student
El Centro College

“If it wasn’t for the faculty at El Centro and the TRIO program, I don’t think I’d be where I am — in school full time going for an associate degree. The instructors are hands-on, one-on-one and will spend all the time in the world it takes for you to understand something. Don Bittinger, Glenda Easter, Janet Ward — they were all so helpful to me.

“What lights my fire about this area is the ability to have creative input into what I do. I get a sense of accomplishment from completing what I’ve started and working from the inside out. My desire is to be able to become a mechanical engineer — that would be my greatest accomplishment.

“I was a 10th-grade dropout who joined the work force at 14 cutting lumber in Fairbanks, Alaska, where I lived for 27 years and got my GED when I was 16. I moved to Texas in 1995 and was working as a trim carpenter, bartending at night. I also had jobs repairing FM antennas 2,000 feet in the air and washing windows on up to 25-story high-rise buildings, hanging in a boatman’s chair on a five-eighth-inch rope.

“One day, on my way to work bartending, I had a head-on collision on my Harley. I was in the hospital for two months, and at one point the doctors wanted to amputate my leg, but I wouldn’t let them. I did two years of rehabilitation in a wheelchair.

“That kind of situation will make you think about what’s important to you, and I decided I needed to do something more with my life besides bartending. I started to learn about repairing computers, and when the bottom fell out of the computer repair market, I decided to go back to school and learn more about using a computer — I could still barely turn one on.

“When I first started college, I was computer-illiterate; I could fix them but I could barely turn one on. My first objective was just to become employable and get off disability.

“While I was still on crutches I enrolled in 18 hours of classes at El Centro in Spring 2007. I didn’t think I had the intelligence or aptitude to do much, but I’ve been on the honor roll every semester and in Phi Theta Kappa [the academic honor society for two-year college students], and now I’m a peer tutor for all the classes I have taken. If you’d have told me a few years ago I’d be taking college-level algebra, trig and calculus, I’d have laughed in your face.

“The best part of this program is the one-on-one instruction and how caring the instructors are. Not one of them will turn their back on you and leave you not understanding something. A lot of them could teach anywhere they want, but they want to teach in the community college setting, and that’s really lucky for us students.

“Sometimes I hear other students on campus talk about how they think they’re too old to be in college, but I don’t want to hear it. I hadn’t been in school for nearly 28 years when I went back at almost 50, and I’m doing it.

“I wasn’t born with a silver spoon in my life, and things haven’t come easily for me, but college has totally changed my attitude and sense of self-worth. I can say that college has really changed my life.”

Duane Murphy earned both an associate degree in Internet Development Technologies and a certificate in Interactive Media from El Centro College in May 2009. He is currently taking advanced math classes at El Centro in preparation for transferring to a bachelor’s degree program.