|Major: General Science|
|Hometown: Niagara, WI|
According to Bay College alumni Jason Cretton, he didn’t plan on pursuing a college education before an injury forced him to switch career pathways. Fortunately, he was able to build a new life for himself in the sustainability field, and he got started by taking classes at Bay.
Jason graduated from Niagara High School in 1995. He did not go into a college education after graduating; in 2001, he found work as a heating, ventilation, and air conditioning technician. However, his time in this career field was abruptly cut short.
“I crashed my dirt bike at a racetrack, and I ended up paralyzed. I’ve been a paraplegic since then, so I knew I wouldn’t be able to continue doing HVAC work,” he said.
In the aftermath of this incident, Jason needed to find a new line of work – and that meant developing a new set of skills. Because of that, he started taking classes at Bay College West in 2004.
“It was very important to me that I didn’t have to choose between my family obligations and going to school. This way, I was able to do both at the same time,” he said.
According to Jason, he was among the first group of students that was able to use Bay West’s virtual classroom. This technology allowed him and his fellow students to take classes offered at Bay’s Escanaba campus without physically traveling there.
Jason also found a great deal to enjoy about the classes taught in person at Bay West.
“I really like the idea of the small class sizes and having access to your teachers outside of the classroom was very important to me,” he said.
According to Jason, he quit his college education and returned to Bay multiple times due to struggles with his accident and several other factors. However, he was eventually able to complete his degree.
“My daughter had finally grown, and I was ready to do something with my life – I was ready to move forward,” he said.
When he went back to Bay as a student for the final time in 2017, he just needed to finish one class before he could complete his degree.
“It was a lot better than having to jump back in and start taking math classes all over again,” Jason said.
Jason graduated from Bay with an associate degree in general science in December 2017. At that point, he kept things going by “immediately” applying to the University of Wisconsin – Platteville, where he was accepted. While he enrolled in that school’s mechanical engineering program, he ultimately graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in sustainability and renewable energy systems (making him the first member of his family to earn a bachelor’s degree).
“I’ve always been interested in helping to mitigate environmental impact, and I planned on using mechanical engineering to work towards that. But then I discovered that they offered a program directly related to sustainability, and that was right up my alley,” he said of his decision to switch majors.
Currently, Jason is pursuing his master’s degree by taking online classes through the University of Wisconsin – Madison. Having completed his first semester of this program, he said his grades have been good and things are going well.
“It’s very challenging, but I enjoy the challenge,” he said.
One of Jason’s classes required him to give a presentation, which he chose to deliver at Bay College (and online via Zoom) in December. In this presentation, Jason shared a condensed version of his sustainability “vision.”
“I plan to continue developing it, and I’d like to give it again at Bay and to local high school students to inspire people to raise awareness and get others involved with the issues related to sustainability,” he said of the presentation.
He also said he appreciated the opportunity to speak at Bay College.
“I loved it. It feels really good to give back to a school that I felt had given so much to me, as far as the foundation I needed to move forwards with my educational career,” Jason said.
Once he earns his master’s degree, Jason hopes to put his conservation and design skills to good use.
“My intentions are to work in green building and sustainable neighborhood development designs as a renewable energy systems specialist. I will work to incorporate wind, solar, and geothermal into the designs of these buildings and neighborhoods,” he said.
Whatever happens in the future, Jason said he is glad he stayed close to home while taking his first step into higher education.
“I love the fact that I got my start at Bay College,” he said.