Personal Essay

Where I come from, people want to know two things when you introduce yourself: where you are from and what you do. I hail from the mountains of southeastern Kentucky in a little town called Hazard. I live there today with my wife and two children where I teach broadcast media at the local high school. I am just settling into my groove as a professional, and that brings me to grad school at Gonzaga University as a student in the Master’s in Communication and Leadership program.

The path to where I am today can only be described as the scenic route. I graduated from the high school where I teach  in 2005. From there, I started my undergraduate career at Morehead State University and spun my wheels for a year or two. After a series of bad decisions and misplaced priorities, I found myself entering the work force full-time at 19 years old with no real direction. The direction I needed came in the form of a little country girl I met in church named Tiffany. We married when I was 20 and we made a deal that I would work and provide for us while she was in school to become a teacher and then I would finish school after she got a job. I worked technical support at a call center and did some freelance sports writing before I got an opportunity to go into journalism full-time as an assignment editor at a nearby television station.

Working in news was where things really changed for me and I started to see a future in communication. I started at an entry-level spot in the newsroom, but since I was working in a small starter-level market, we had a ton of turnover and there were opportunities for advancement for people who worked hard. After two years in television, I was named executive producer of digital content and my priorities had changed; I no longer wanted to go back to school and finish a teaching degree. That is when I got my next bit of direction: my daughter Arya. We found out Tiffany was pregnant just a couple days after I signed my contract to be an executive producer. It was hard being a dad and working so many hours and still dealing with work when I came home. Unfortunately, the deal I cut with my wife about going to school while she worked was no longer feasible with an extra mouth to feed. If I was going to go back to school, I would have to do it while I worked, so I dug in and enrolled in school full-time while I worked full-time. It was the hardest two-year grind in my life, but I finished my undergraduate degree in 2017, 12 years after I first walked onto a college campus.

After finishing school, I started teaching broadcast media at the local high school and that grind to get there triggered a second wind for my education. Within a year of completing my bachelor’s degree, I completed my first master’s degree. Now, I’m starting my second at Gonzaga. As a career, I am really at peace with working at the intersection of education and communications. After gaining some experience in this program at Gonzaga, I may look into being more on the communication side of that sphere as a communications director for a district or college.

My passions for digital media and education definitely shine during the day, but teaching at the high school opened up an opportunity for me to rekindle an old passion: video games. Toward the end of my first year at the school, I was asked to be the school’s esports coach. After accepting the challenge, several doors opened as I found new ways to expand our team. A year into my time as esports coach, I was the fastest growing tournament organizer in the state of Kentucky and had a growing following on Twitch. While I may not be the best competitor on the planet, I have built a respectable tournament series and use my experience in digital media to support the region’s competitive scene.

My entire life has been this peaceful type of crazy where I am just having fun and throwing darts at a dartboard and seeing where they land. While it has taken me a little bit longer to get where I wanted to go, the relationships and memories made along the way have shaped me in a special way. I found my niche and have begun to carve out my place in this world; I just need to keep carving.