Sturgis Rally shuttle driver pursues degree at Black Hills State in Rapid City

Author: BHSU Communications/Monday, July 30, 2018/Categories: Students in the News, College of Education and Behavioral Sciences, Community, 2018

Many locals have a “Rally Job.” Here’s one local resident Sturgis Rally participants might meet amongst the motorcycles and fanfare: Dennis Morton, secondary education major at Black Hills State University-Rapid City.

Dennis works at the Days End Campground in Sturgis during Rally Week, a gig he’s had for seven years. He drives a shuttle bus during Rally and helps with campground reservations throughout the summer while he pursues his teaching degree.

“Because I’m running the shuttle I get to meet everyone at the campground at least once or twice. I enjoy meeting people from throughout the world who come to South Dakota for the Rally,” says Dennis. “I grew up in Sturgis so I haven’t missed a Rally in 27 years!”

Last year at the age of 37, Dennis decided to begin taking classes for his college degree. He had worked in various retail stores since his teenage years and was ready for a new opportunity.

“I was rebellious. I dropped out of high school when I was 17. At that point, I got a job and didn’t think I needed my GED,” says Dennis. “After working in retail for many years I decided it was time to finally get my GED and go to college.”

After getting his GED, Dennis began taking core classes at BHSU-Rapid City to adapt himself back into school. An avid reader and writer, he found he especially enjoyed his English courses. BHSU professors Karl Lehman, Meredith Parker, and Dr. Courtney Huse-Wika inspired him.

“There are many teachers at BHSU who I’ve gotten along with and have kept me going towards my degree,” says Dennis.

His choice of major might be surprising for a high school dropout. Dennis selected English education.

“Most people have a story about a teacher who was influential in high school, I never had that. And not to put the blame on the teachers – I wasn’t an exemplary student,” says Dennis. “To become a teacher now, though, I can be that story for someone else.”

Dennis says his education classes at BHSU-Rapid City have been “eye-opening.” Through Educational Psychology and Childhood Development courses he says he’s been able to see his own growth and progression and that of his 19-year-old son.

While his wife has been very supportive of Dennis pursuing a college degree, he says his son “didn’t get it at first.”

“After I started bringing home books and homework my son had a better understanding of my goal. With going to college I was also better able to help him with his studies, too.”

Even with his Rally job and filling in occasionally at Storyteller Comics & Games in Rapid City, Dennis was able to take an Educational Technology course at BHSU-RC this summer. He says he enjoyed learning how to use the smart boards to support his future students.

Dennis will begin student teaching this spring. Although he took an untraditional path to a college degree, he hopes to be the type of teacher who help kids persevere in learning – in the both the good times and the bad.

“Because I dropped out of high school and lived my life before college, I think it gives me a unique perspective,” says Dennis. “I’ve got life under my belt. I can help show kids that even if things don’t seem like they’re going great now, they can always get better.”

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