SANDPOINT — With the proper motivation, anyone can turn their life around.
Lake Pend Oreille High School students received that message loud and clear Tuesday afternoon in a school assembly featuring Joshua Barnes, an alternative school alum preparing to earn a law degree. His recent success in pursuing a law career is a far cry from his earlier post-high school years, which culminated in an arrest and a felony conviction for attempted assault.
“I got into a lot of trouble, and basically had the choice to either go to prison or participate in (a six-month program),” Barnes said.
His current situation is a far cry from his misspent early 20s. Barnes is now married to his wife, Kristal, and has two kids, son Liam and daughter Piper. He has earned a bachelor’s degree from Brigham Young University and has been accepted into law school, an education he intends to apply toward a career in criminal defense.
Barnes hopes students will be inspired by his story and become motivated to set life goals for themselves and pursue them.
He encouraged students to pursue college or some other post-high school education or training, saying it wasn’t as difficult as they might expect.
“No matter what you pursue after high school, it’s usually easier than you thought it would be,” he said.
He added that regardless of the difficulty, the payoff was worth it. Statistics show that individuals with a college degree make on average $22,000 more a year, making it more far more costly to not pursue higher education than any tuition bill.
Most importantly, he encouraged students not to follow the path he chose immediately after high school. Because his decisions led him to a felony conviction, affecting his job opportunities and the ability to vote, run for office, go hunting with his son and other disadvantages.
“Back then, I didn’t care because none of that sounded interesting,” he said. “But now that I’m almost 30, those are things I really want to do.”
The Lake Pend Oreille High School students proved a receptive audience for Barnes’ story. They listened carefully and respectfully while he talked and asked plenty of questions afterward. In response, Barnes gave them plenty of stories about his past enthusiasm for skateboarding, his involvement in turning the school into a haunted house during Halloween.
“I think the assembly went really well, and the kids were very enthusiastic,” Barnes said. “I’m really glad I had the opportunity to come and speak with them.”