Stories and Testimonials
Rediscovering education has changed Terry Rehkop's life in ways he couldn't have known. Thirty years ago, Rehkop took a smattering of community college classes in Reno but lost his desire to pursue an academic degree.
A snowmobile accident a decade later left him a quadriplegic with an uncertain future. It was a future that the now 56-year-old Rehkop eventually realized would be limited and unpromising.
So, Rehkop resumed his college education at WNC's Fallon campus in 2009 and just earned an accounting degree, with a goal of becoming a certified public accountant.
"Without it, there is no career. That's all there is to it anymore," Rehkop said. "It's the difference between spending the rest of my life on Social Security and disability or going back into the workforce and being a productive member of society."
After his accident, Rehkop had limited use of his lower and upper limbs. He spent six months in the hospital adjusting to his disability and approximately 10 years before becoming refocused on a career. Prior to the accident, Rehkop worked as a stock room parts employee and a production control scheduler for a manufacturing facility, before becoming a warehouse manager and purchasing agent for a construction development company.
Rehkop and his wife, Gayle, also owned and operated an RV Park in California, and he worked part time doing the payroll and accounting for the Northern Nevada Center for Independent Living.
"(Gayle) was my hero," said Rehkop. "If she hadn't been pushing me, I would have probably never left the house."
When he decided to enroll in WNC several years ago, he found support services in place to ensure that his disability wouldn’t prevent him from succeeding in college.
"We have worked with him to ensure that he has equal access to the course material, (including) note takers, extended time for exams, a scribe for exams, etc.," said Susan Trist, WNC's coordinator for disability support services. "Terry deserves the credit for being an exceptional, dedicated student."
Accounting Professor Richard Kloes has observed Rehkop’s unwavering commitment and drive to learn in his various accounting classes.
"I admire his dedication and determination to not only pursue an accounting degree but actually be very successful at it," Kloes said. "I whole-heartedly commend him on this achievement. Terry has set a great example as to what one can accomplish."
His academic success has enabled Rehkop to give back to fellow students on the Fallon campus. He works as a tutor three days a week at the Academic Skills Center and offers a hard-working and caring attitude.
"He's a huge asset to the Academic Skill Center, and he has high standards for himself," said Ron Belbin, a library support specialist. "Terry's a great presence to have in the center and is very encouraging. He's also incredibly reliable."
Rehkop said working in the ASC has been rewarding. "It's giving back. Every time I can help somebody, it’s a really good feeling. I like working with people and being around people."
The students that Rehkop tutors can relate to their mentor, knowing that he, too, has used the center to improve his knowledge and understanding.
Last spring, Rehkop was on the Dean’s List, and he completed his Associate of Applied Science Degree with honors, over the summer.
"It is students like Terry who make my job a pleasure," Trist said. "He has done the hard work; he is an example of what a dedicated student looks like."
"In my opinion, Terry's success can be attributed to his enthusiasm in pursuing his accounting degree, as well as his high degree of motivation to do well," said Kloes.
Rehkop said some of his motivation comes from what a doctor told him after his spinal cord injury. "He told me I wouldn't be able to balance a checkbook," Rehkop said. "I'd like to show my degree to that doctor. I was destined to go back to school no matter what. I wish I had done it when I was younger."
In fact, he hasn't ruled out pursuing a teaching degree. "I really like teaching," he said. "There's still a chance I might go that way." Rehkop said he won't forget the instructors and support he has received at WNC.
"I love it here. I don't want to leave," he said. "I want to give a shout out to the school. The professional staff and teachers are way beyond what I expected."
A new career isn't the only thing motivating Rehkop. He has a family depending on him. "My wife and I adopted special needs boys. I needed more income with kids - that was what got me going," said Rehkop, whose sons are age 12 and 10. "They are a handful, but I love them, and I want to give them everything I've got."
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