Arrow-right Camera
The Spokesman-Review Newspaper

The Spokesman-Review Newspaper The Spokesman-Review

Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
Cloudy 22° Cloudy
News >  Education

SCC graduate Douglas Carney found a path to rebuild his life

Douglas Carney  stands for a portrait on the nearly empty campus in Spokane. Carney, 45,  won the Acts Transforming Lives Award. (Libby Kamrowski / The Spokesman-Review)
Douglas Carney stands for a portrait on the nearly empty campus in Spokane. Carney, 45, won the Acts Transforming Lives Award. (Libby Kamrowski / The Spokesman-Review)
By Arcelia Martin For The Spokesman-Review

Douglas Carney says he’s lived three lives.

His first life was marked by his time spent in a juvenile detention center ; his second, by two terms spent in a prison facility.

And his third life – the one he’s in right now – is marked by hope.

This spring Carney graduated with an associate degree in business from Spokane Community College and is set to continue his studies in business at Eastern Washington University.

It’s been a long and dark path for the Spokane native. Carney grew up in a motorcycle gang, where violence, drugs and criminality surrounded him.

“Each time I got in trouble and got out, I changed my life in some form,” Carney said. “Of either being a better criminal at first, to now, where I want to be able to be a provider for my family and just be a better member of society.”

The hardest part was leaving the gang.

“Trying to escape people that you were calling family for so long and always had their back,” he said. “(Then) going from turning your back on them, to them attacking you and your family, to actually being free of them.”

For five years, Carney and his wife operated a medical marijuana dispensary. But when the laws changed allowing dispensaries to be recreational rather than solely medical, the couple was unprepared.

They weren’t sure how to fill out the paperwork or how to make the transition. As a result, the couple spent a lot of money trying to file the correct paperwork, but were still unsuccessful.

Eventually Carney decided to invest – in himself.

To stay involved in business, he knew he’d have to go back to school. Sixth grade was the highest level of schooling he had completed traditionally.

The last time he went back to school, his plans were interrupted. He was in jail after being arrested for first-degree burglary and domestic violence.

In trying to be a better father to his seven children – four biological children and three stepchildren –he’s implemented new habits.

Carney starts his day at 4:30 a.m. It’s a time where the house is quiet, everyone is asleep. He can get himself together, get his mind active and do homework. It’s also the time that he can read for fun and pay bills. Then around 7, the kids are up and they all get ready to go to school.

Carney’s on the SCC campus by 8 and stays until 2 p.m.

“I would go to my classes and then work in the study labs on my homework, just because I wanted to have high grades,” Carney said.

Even for a man who had seen some of the darker corners of Spokane, the classroom was still an intimidating environment.

“When I got to SCC, I didn’t believe that I was smart,” Carney said. “I figured that I would really be struggling, and not be able to even make it as far as I have in school.”

But with the help of faculty, Carney was able to maintain a high B grade average.

“I didn’t have any confidence in being able to write a paper, or even to know that I was spelling words right, and after (English instructor Sharon Miller’s) class, I had so much confidence and so much ability to write papers,” Carney said. “It was so awesome. I didn’t even know I had it in me.”

Miller noticed Carney’s budding academic confidence throughout the courses he studied.

“As Doug became comfortable in the classroom, he responded very well to group work, particularly peer editing situations where students had opportunity to pool their knowledge and assist one another,” Miller said. “ Doug became so good at this that students often asked him after class to help them with their essays.”

Carney became the go-to guy in Miller’s classroom. Not only for academic help, but for mentorship as well.

“He is patient and listens well,” Miller said.

The new community college graduate hopes that people can use his life story as a testament to new beginnings.

Carney said he wants people who have destroyed their lives to know “that you can still make it.”

The Spokesman-Review Newspaper

Local journalism is essential.

Give directly to The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages community forums series -- which helps to offset the costs of several reporter and editor positions at the newspaper -- by using the easy options below. Gifts processed in this system are not tax deductible, but are predominately used to help meet the local financial requirements needed to receive national matching-grant funds.

Active Person

Subscribe now to get breaking news alerts in your email inbox

Get breaking news delivered to your inbox as it happens.