The Scott County Community Foundation, along with the community foundations of Clark, Floyd, Harrison and Washington County, has established an Education Matters Southern Indiana initiative. The goal is to try to increase the number of working adults in our region who started but never completed some form of post-secondary education ? education that extends beyond high school.
Through this undertaking, we have identified four critical ways adults could be supported to be more successful. One of these includes establishing a college-going culture, which includes promoting progress in educational achievement.
Mitchell Clayton Keown is a Scottsburg resident who has agreed to share his story in the hopes that it would keep others from making the same mistakes, and not take what they have for granted.
My name is Mitchell Keown. I am 27 years old. I grew up in Lexington, Indiana. I went to school at Lexington Elementary, and Scottsburg Middle, and I dropped out of high school in the 9th grade, and started working full time. I will start from the beginning about my life experience.
I lived in Lexington from when I was born until I was 8 years old. I cut my baby teeth on my dad?s? empty leaf chewing tobacco pouches like Beech Nut, and I have been chewing ever since then – ?I don?t remember ever not chewing. My mom told me I switched from leaf tobacco to snuff when I was around 5 years old, and I would always get in trouble for giving it to local kids, and they would turn green and get sick, then run home crying.
I took my first drink of alcohol when I was still in diapers. I am told that I was so little they didn?t think I could open the coolers that were in the house but I did and they caught me taking the lid off of each whiskey bottle, taking a drink, then putting the lid back on and putting it back in the cooler. They said that when I got to the bottle of Wild Turkey I took a drink, and shook all over, then put the lid back on it and walked away. I remember being at keg parties with my dad when I was 6 years old, and sneaking beer without anybody noticing for me and my friends by putting it in empty pop cans. I was doing keg stands by the time I was 8 years old, and driving my dad home because he was too drunk to stand much less drive. I got into drugs, mainly marijuana, by the time I was 13 because all of my friends were older than me and I always thought what they did was cool. I started selling drugs when I was 15, and continued all through school, and I got into meth and cocaine when I was 16. I had a friend that made meth, and I would sell or trade it for cocaine, and marijuana. I was usually drinking, and driving around party to party drunk and selling drugs.
??????? ? ?I went to meet my buddy one night out in the middle of no man?s land at an abandoned house that was a mile off the road. When I pulled up to the house his vehicle was in the drive in flames. ?I tried to get close to see if he was in it to pull him out, but the fire was so hot the tires were exploding, and I couldn?t get anywhere near it. I called the police, and by the time the fire department found us the fuel tank had blown, and my friend that was asleep in the back seat was melted into the back seat springs. They had to take the seat out to remove the body.? The fire chief and state police said that he had an anhydrous tank in the back seat, some Coleman lantern fuel, and diesel fuel which is used to cut the drugs during the manufacturing process. They said that the anhydrous tank must have leaked, and that the fumes probably killed him in his sleep before the fire even started. I never messed with meth, or any of the hard drugs, after that day. I still dealt marijuana, and drank like a fish.
I had several huge fights with my dad because as he got older he stopped drinking and partying, and started wanting to focus on the family more. I was still ready to party, and have fun, so I did, but my dad was always gone. He was a truck driver and when he would come home, we would get into a fist fight, then he would leave and I would start partying again. Everything would be ok, then I would get in trouble again or end up in a fight, and get locked up. My dad would come get me, and try to get me to change my ways, and we would fight, then I would leave.
I was 18 when I finally crashed my truck into a tree at 120 MPH one night that I was out racing somebody with an empty half gallon whiskey bottle in my floor board. I hit the tree dead center of the front bumper. The officers on scene said if it would have hit on a frame rail I would not have made it through the crash, but thankfully me, and the two guys that were with me, made it through the crash. They had broken arms and hips, and I got 6 of my bottom teeth knocked out, and 30 percent of my knee cap got ripped off by the dash. The people we were racing left us there, and did not even check on us. They said that they thought we were all dead and did not want to get in trouble. The police said that I was pulling my unconscious friends out of the truck that was on fire when they pulled up, and then I collapsed on the ground. I don?t remember that. The last thing I remember was cat fishing at Marysville Lake. I don?t even remember driving. The police and I determined that I was driving based off of our injuries. I had teeth on both sides of the truck so they couldn?t confirm if I was driving or not in the official report.
I stopped drinking at that point, and my dad got me started in GED classes at the Lifelong Learning Center in Scottsburg. I went to school there for approximately 5 months, then went to Ivy Tech, took the GED test and passed it. The day I got my GED certificate in the mail my dad told me I was dumb if I didn?t take it straight to a recruiter and join the military, and start a career in something other than drug dealing because, as he would say ?that drug dealing doesn?t have very good retirement benefits.? I thought that was funny, but true.
I joined the Army National Guard January 26, 2006, at 19 years old. I got back into drinking and drugs not long after I came back from AIT, because there was nothing better to do in Scottsburg other than get drunk, drive around and shoot at stuff, and smoke dope. I got orders to deploy to Iraq in 2007. I had about two more months before I deployed overseas when my dad had a massive heart attack. He was a truck driver, and he was in Lincoln, Nebraska when it happened. I talked to him the night before. He called me every morning except that morning. I knew something was wrong when he didn?t call me that morning, and wouldn?t answer his phone. I called the state police in Lincoln, Nebraska, and they wouldn?t go check the truck stop for him because he had not been missing for 24 hours. I didn?t have any money so I jumped in my truck, and started driving to Nebraska, stealing gas all the way there, but my aunt called me, and had my uncle meet me halfway and take me the rest of the way because they knew that I wouldn?t stop till I could see my dad no matter what anybody said, or did. ?I thought about it for the next two months then ?decided to go ahead and deploy anyway because my dad wouldn?t want me to sit at the house doing nothing, and end up becoming a drunk/druggy again, and I had to support my mom and sister now that my dad was gone.
?? ? ? ? ?? I deployed to Iraq from 2007-2008. I found out when I got back home that three of my old party buddies had died from drug overdoses, and that the rest of my old crew was in jail, going to jail, or in prison for drugs, and murder charges. The guys that are not in prison or dead are still addicted to drugs and alcohol. I could go to a bar in town tonight and see at least five people that I grew up with or went to school with or just know that has never matured, and never changed, and half of them don?t even have a vehicle, or an education to be able to better themselves, and the sad thing is that half of them have kids. ?I thank God every day that my dad saved me from that kind of lifestyle even though he may have started out as a terrible role model, but by the end of his life he was my savior, and hero.
I am now blessed with an amazing beautiful family, and an awesome full time job as a mechanic for the federal government, and lifetime career in the Army ahead of me. I have three awesome kids, that are smarter than me and they are only 2 years old and younger. I have the most supportive wife a man could ever ask for. I have a boss that is like a big brother to me, and I have made some friends/co-workers that would die for me. I have changed a lot in my life in the past eight years. I went from being a drunk/druggy sleeping in my truck with nothing to my name except my truck, to having an amazing family, friends, and a new house with plenty of property for my kids to grow up in the country.
I am currently going to college for my associate?s degree in multi-disciplinary law. I have always wanted to go to college but with having kids, I knew that wouldn?t happen for a long time until my friend told me he was going to Grantham University online. He got me set up with the college, and explained everything to me, and gave me the extra motivation that I needed to pursue my degree, and ?now I am going to college online, and making extra money at the same time. I mostly decided to start college now instead of when the kids get older because money was getting tight with three kids, a mortgage, and new truck loan. So now I am using my GI Bill, and tuition assistance to pay for my college so I can get college credit that will go toward my degree and give me promotion points and extra money at the same time. ?I really like the online classes because I can stay committed to it and still spend time with my family. I believe that my biggest challenge with going to college as an adult with a 9th grade education that never paid attention in class, is having to learn everything over again, and teaching myself things I never learned in the first place, and how to do school work again after spending 10 years out of school doing nothing except working skill trades, or as a soldier.
I am very thankful for my family, and friends/co-workers that stand by me no matter what happens, because I still struggle with alcohol addiction to this very day. ?I am truly blessed to have the support system that I have.