KIRKSVILLE — Tim Garrett, 18, loves machines, dirt and the outdoors. His hands are scarred from working on heavy machinery at his family's farm just outside of Kirksville, where he's lived for the past eight years with his mother, stepfather and two younger brothers.
Garrett has always been good driving stuff. "Anything my stepdad thrown me on, I could drive," he said. "I figured out how to drive it and drive it well." It started with a mini-excavator he drove when he was a kid. Since then, he's worked with everything from tractors to combines.
After graduating from Kirksville High School in May, he hopes to translate his experience working on the farm into a career working with heavy machinery. He's applied to Linn State Technical College and hopes that he impressed officials there enough during an interview in late February to get admitted. But he acknowledges that low grades — mostly C's, he said — and two speeding tickets might work against him.
Going on to the school is the ticket he sees to following his dreams.
"I want to move out of Kirksville," he told me. "For what I want to do, heavy machinery, there's not much around here. The best-paying job you can get around here is $20 an hour. I want to do something in the mine or road construction — something making a little more money, being a little more well off. I want to go somewhere by myself or with someone I know and do it my way and not anybody else's way. Besides that I want to have a nice house and have a steady job — a good job — and be happy and have fun with my life."
And how does he plan to pay the cost of the educational ticket? "Loans," he said. "And my stepdad is gonna help me. He said if I went to college he'd help me. Work it off — that's what you gotta do these days, pretty much. I will have financial aid.
"But I have to see if I get accepted first."
This story is part of the American Next, a special project exploring the hopes, fears and changing expectations of Missouri's next generation in challenging times.