Engineering strikes a creative chord for the musician
Every year, students drop out of the education system due to life circumstances, parenting difficulties, drug addiction and other obstacles. It takes some courage for them to come back and complete their degree. This is one of the four profiles of reinstated students who refuse to drop out.
Today, Anthony McKinney’s life takes center stage. But at one point, the health and prospects of mechatronics engineering and the German double major were tenuous and murky at best.
As a teenager, music was the only subject that kept him even remotely engaged in school. Playing the double bass in an orchestra, playing the guitar in a jazz orchestra and honing his voice in chorus were his oxygen.
At 18, McKinney enrolled in Ventura Community College but quit going after three weeks when his disinterest in academics and the attraction of playing live music with his rock band got too big. The group recorded an album, and after being taken over by a record company, the teenage quartet began touring in the western United States.
Medication was readily available and he spent the next four years addicted to opiates. On three occasions he was arrested and sent to prison, where he suffered heroin withdrawals.
“You wouldn’t wish this on your worst enemy,” he said. “Unfortunately, I had to do this a few times to really learn my lesson.”
But in 2010, at age 22, McKinney was determined to change. He fought to get sober and on February 22, 2021 marked 11 years drug free.
In 2011, McKinney met and started dating the woman he would eventually marry, and began working at Trader Joe’s while returning to community college. Their first son was born in 2014 and he left school to support his family financially.
Returning to school in 2015, McKinney remembered a math teacher’s intuition that he would excel at engineering and found a place in the subject. He enjoyed the camaraderie in the Math, Engineering, Scientific Achievement (MESA) program, and although he struggled through the prerequisite courses, the difficult program did not deter him.
“I kept saying to myself, ‘For once in your life, get involved in something. Don’t be afraid, you absolutely can do it, ”he said.
McKinney graduated as an associate and transferred to Chico State in 2017, just as their youngest son was born.
“From Chico State we had two young kids, I had all of these tough classes ahead of me and I also work 30 hours a week to maintain health care,” he said. “This first year has been really difficult.”
McKinney applied and received the Duff Reentry Fellowship for three years in a row, as well as an Osher Reentry Fellowship for the 2019-2020 academic year.
With the funds, McKinney supplemented her rent, reduced her study hours, and minimized her student debt. They also helped him study abroad in Germany – a lifelong dream. McKinney progressed to his degrees at the University of Tübingen and Ulm University in 2018-19, reinforced the German he remembered from high school, and immersed himself in a different culture with his wife and children. children.
“None of Anthony’s accomplishments would have been possible without his deep sense of responsibility, strong motivation, drive and perseverance,” said Christine Goulding, Director of the Department of International Languages, Literatures and Cultures. “He believes anything is possible if you’re willing to work hard enough to make it happen.”
As McKinney prepares to graduate this spring, a job at a local oil and gas consulting firm awaits this summer. While he is excited about his future, he also remembers the struggles and failures that helped him reach this point – in fact, he has those fondest memories.
“Remembering what it was like to struggle with anxiety and uncertainty in life is a motivator and a reminder of how far we’ve come,” McKinney said. “It’s also a way to build gratitude and always appreciate what I have.”