TCC grad overcame addiction, homelessness to pursue engineering career | Jobs Vox


It was not yet time for the Salvation Army to serve lunch.

So while he waited, Tim Routledge decided to sit down.

“I put my back against a building and spread my legs on the sidewalk,” he said. “And I remember it clearly – people walking by and actually stepping on me.

“They just looked at me. I felt so neglected and forgotten—like I was just some nuisance.

It was also, Rutledge added, when the reality of his situation fully sunk in.

“I never thought of the word ‘homeless’ as applied to me before Tulsa,” he said. “But there I was, sleeping outside or in shelters, depending on them for food.”

Today, eight years later, the 31-year-old can only shake his head and smile as he reflects on how far he’s come.

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At the time, he could not have imagined the complete metamorphosis that followed, let alone one that included college and career goals.

Rutledge said, college was “a Hail Mary pass” for me. “I made up my mind to do it, and I threw it.”

On December 9, Rutledge – who has left behind his past life of drug addiction, homelessness and incarceration – celebrated his graduation from Tulsa Community College at the school’s December commencement ceremony.

He now has two associate degrees from TCC, one in mathematics and one in mechanical engineering, and will go to the University of Tulsa, where he will earn a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering.

“I remember whenever I came out here to Tulsa someone told me bluntly that even my wildest dreams were possible, as long as I was willing to work,” Rutledge said.

However, at that point he actually had good reason not to believe it.

‘nowhere to go’

Originally from Texas, Rutledge’s life took a wrong turn early on when he was introduced to drugs.

The appeal initially, he said, was the sense of community.

He said, “I moved around a lot and I didn’t have many friends.” “So whenever I found out there was a community of people doing drugs, I joined. It gave you an automatic sense of belonging.”

This continued after Rutledge moved to Austin, and he left high school as a freshman.

For a few years, his life was “a revolving door of prisoners and institutions—in and out, constantly in trouble,” he said.

“I knew I had a problem before I actually did something about it. I don’t know maybe I just wasn’t ready at the time.

Eventually, Rutledge arrived in Tulsa, where he had a relative.

It was actually a survival move. If he was going to turn his life around, he needed to get away from Austin and “the trouble I was getting into.”

However, Tulsa did not bring immediate salvation.

For several weeks, while awaiting admission to a treatment program, Routledge had no choice but to live on the streets.

In Austin, he was technically homeless at times. “But I had friends there, and I just wandered between their places. Tulsa was different. I didn’t really have any place to go.

Rutledge relied on the services of various organizations including John 3:16, The Salvation Army, and the Tulsa Day Center.

“I didn’t know anyone or where to go or what to do,” he said. “And I was detoxing while off drugs. It was really tough.

Eventually admitted to a treatment program, Routledge was able to complete it and move into a halfway house.

“I had tried different things several times,” he said, “but it never worked because I didn’t go completely inside. That’s what changed it here for me. I knew I had to go inside.” Have to go. And so I did.

Even then, the idea of ​​college was the furthest thing from Rutledge’s mind. Basic needs were the priority.

He still remembers the sense of accomplishment he felt when he got his first apartment.

It was a small step. But it proved something to her, as would her ability to support herself.

Rutledge got a job as an aircraft mechanic, and this gave him steady employment.

It was also in that role that a new idea first dawned on him.

He was working with some engineers when he thought, “Man, I could do that,” he said.

‘put in the work’

However, there was an obvious problem with doing the engineering.

While Routledge completed high school through an elective program, he was not ready for college-level mathematics.

So when she enrolled at TCC part time in 2018, she started with just one class, Math Foundations.

Having always hated the subject as a youth, Routledge couldn’t have been more surprised at how things turned out.

Not only did he excel in math, but he also earned an associate’s degree in it. He also later worked as a teacher of mathematics.

Rutledge will begin the next phase of his education in January, when his classes at TU begin.

It will take him two years to earn a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering. He also hopes to complete a master’s degree.

Though his metamorphosis took commitment and focus on his part, Routledge is clear about one thing:

“I wouldn’t be here without the help of so many people,” he said. “I would say this to anyone in my position: Help is available. Don’t be afraid to ask for it.

Rutledge hasn’t quite decided his future. He said he likes the idea of ​​designing an aircraft or an electric vehicle.

Whatever direction he chooses, though, he has learned that “it’s all worth doing.”

“As long as you’re willing to work, you can achieve anything,” he said.

Rutledge hopes that his future includes living in Tulsa.

“I grew up in Austin, but as I like to say, I also grew up in Tulsa, just in a different way,” he said. “Tulsa has been great to me.”

Featured Video: Tulsa Housing Challenge

The initiative aims for $500 million in total housing investment across the city over the next two years.


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