As Brandon Wethington sat in the Johnson County jail, looking across a table at his 2-year-old son, he knew he had to make a change.
Wethington, 20, had spent much of his time since he was 16 getting high and had been arrested three times for marijuana possession in two years. Two of those arrests landed him in jail for more than 30 days last summer. Halfway through his sentence, Wethington’s mother brought his son, Aiden, to visit.
Seeing Aiden was difficult. Hearing “Daddy, I love you” was worse.
“That kind of shook me,” Wethington said. “That pretty much killed me inside.”
After Wethington returned to his cell, he realized he needed to get his life together, largely for his son. That meant he would have to stop smoking marijuana, needed to find work so he could support Aiden, and he needed to finish high school.
“What do I want to be for my son?” Wethington said. “The only thing I could say is, I need to change.”
This week, Wethington will join about 30 students who will graduate from Clark-Pleasant Academy. The alternative program gives students who aren’t succeeding in traditional classrooms a chance to finish high school.
For Wethington, graduation is the first of many steps he wants to take to change his life.
Wethington got high for the first time when he was 8. He spent about a year smoking marijuana and cigarettes until his mother caught him and asked him to stop. He stayed clean for about the next seven years and attended Clark-Pleasant schools.
But he was regularly picked on and bullied, and he had a hard time focusing in class, he said. When Wethington was 16, he started getting high again.
At the time, his mother was out of work, his stepfather was working different jobs, and the family was living paycheck to paycheck. Wethington’s then-girlfriend became pregnant with Aiden, and Wethington started to feel hopeless.
“It seemed like I wouldn’t make it anywhere,” he said.
Between ages 18 and 20, Wethington was arrested for marijuana possession three times and was sentenced to spend more than 30 days in the county jail last summer.
On July 3, about halfway through his sentence, he had the visit with his mother and his son that prompted him to change his life. Wethington was released from jail in August, and he immediately started working with teachers at Clark-Pleasant Academy to create a plan to graduate by the spring.
While he worked to make up the classes he’d missed or failed, he knew he also needed to find a job. Ryan Norris, one of the alternative academy’s teachers, helped Wethington find a job at McDonald’s, where he stayed for about six months. He’s now starting work with a local pest control company and wants to spend the rest of the year working full time.
Then, he plans to start taking heating and air conditioning courses from Ivy Tech Community College.
Wethington doesn’t know what kind of career he’ll eventually have, but he’s content to finally be making plans to support himself and his son.
“I’m actually happy for once,” he said. “I’m proud of where I’m at right now.”