This university dropout turned his life around in prison. He’s now working on his PhD

Mark Watson used to be sought after via Halifax police for a string of thefts and robberies in early 2008 whilst he advised a few family members that he could turn himself in, on one situation.

“I said, ‘If Justin — my cousin — brings me to this crack space that i know about, let me get prime another time and then I promise you, I’m Going To allow you to take me to the police station after that,'” said Watson.

at the police station, Watson, then 23, used to be arrested by a classmate from high school.

“I principally idea my lifestyles was over at that point,” he mentioned.

That fateful day was once the fruits of years of battling drug addiction and committing crimes to make stronger his dependancy, but Watson’s prediction was incorrect.

This university dropout turned his life around in prison. He's now working on his PhD

Watson at the Atlantic Insitution maximum-safety jail in Renous, N.B., in early 2009, left, and early 2010. He was once best allowed out of his cell through the day if he labored or went to university. He selected school. (Submitted by means of Mark Watson)

He spent nearly three years incarcerated, however due to the fact his unencumber in 2010 from the Atlantic Institution, a most security prison in Renous, N.B., he is earned a group school degree, an engineering level, a master’s stage and is now working on his PhD in electric engineering.

Watson works complete-time as an embedded programs engineer and teaches part-time at Dalhousie University in Halifax, a faculty he dropped out of a few times. Dalhousie was even the location of 1 of the crimes that led to his incarceration.

A drug-fuelled crime spree

The incident used to be written about in the Feb. 21, 2008, adaptation of the Dalhousie scholar newspaper, The Gazette. Consistent With the article, the victim was once walking through the campus on Feb. 12, 2008, around 9:30 p.m. AT while anyone tugged on his computer bag and demanded it. The robber had a knife and the student complied.

“Police said four identical robberies inside two days that week,” said the object. “All of those victims pronounced matching suspect and getaway automotive descriptions — a white male in his 20s, approximately A HUNDRED AND EIGHTY pounds and nearly six toes tall, fleeing in a beige 4-door automobile.”

Ahead Of Watson was once arrested on Feb. 15, 2008, a Halifax Neighborhood Police spokesperson made a prescient remark to The Gazette.

“Usually whilst there is a string of robberies like that, they stem from an addiction,” the spokesperson stated.

On April 28, 2008, Watson was once sentenced for 2 thefts, 4 robberies and break and enters. He was once sentenced to 37 months in jail.

How the trouble began

Watson stated his struggles began in Grade 10 when he began putting out with a new crowd. An handiest kid, he stated he always longed for reputation from his peers. He remembers making a mindful determination to “underperform” at academics — he thought his new buddies might look at him in a different way if he did neatly.

Watson skipped classes, smoked pot and took capsules equivalent to Valium, offered medication and stole from fellow students. He was expelled in both his Grade 10 and ELEVEN years at Sir John A . Macdonald High School — referred to now as Bay View High School — in Upper Tantallon, N.S.

The school’s vice essential for a part of that time used to be Jeff Lewis. Watson mentioned Lewis expelled him on a minimum of one among the events.

This university dropout turned his life around in prison. He's now working on his PhD

this is a drawing Watson did of his cellphone at the Atlantic Institution. (Robert Short/CBC)

“That broke my center,” stated Lewis. “That was the very last thing i wanted to do at that point for him.”

Lewis spent virtually three a long time in training before retiring in advance this year.

“i really assume that we are recovering in training at seeing the essence of what that child can develop into, in preference to making up our minds approximately who they’re just because of the instances that they’re in on the time,” he stated.

A vice predominant’s message

Lewis mentioned when students have been struggling academically, he’d frequently consult them and will briefly resolve what they have been capable of, in preference to what their grades mentioned.

He stated he had mature conversations with Watson and will inform he had “upper-stage considering skills.”

“While I labored with folks and scholars in crisis at high school, i’d always say to them, ‘Listen, your child has the essence of no matter what it is to do good things, and our process is to proceed to consider that and not allow up on the concept that that kid has doable,” stated Lewis, who later wrote a reference letter to help Watson get into college.

“And simply because they’re going via what they are going thru nowadays simply doesn’t mean that 15 years down the road, issues don’t seem to be going to seem a complete lot different.'”

This university dropout turned his life around in prison. He's now working on his PhD

Watson is proven together with his parents, Bernard James Watson and Roz Watson, in December 2010. This used to be the primary time he noticed his oldsters for the reason that he was released from the Atlantic Establishment. (Submitted by means of Mark Watson)

For his Grade 12 yr, Watson pulled things together. He credits his first courting, a lady he used to be with for a pair of years, for helping keep him stay not off course. His grades confirmed drastic improvement and netted him an award for most improved pupil.

After Watson graduated high school in 2003, he enrolled at Saint Mary’s School in Halifax. By Way Of the tip of his first yr, his relationship used to be over. He began the usage of cocaine.

the next few years had routine styles: struggling with drug dependancy, going to college and dropping out of university — with Watson bouncing again and forth between going to Saint Mary’s and Dalhousie — and working in construction whilst he wasn’t at school.

‘The starting of the top’

in the summer of 2007, Watson enlisted within the reserves. away from home for a number of months, he cleaned himself up and was feeling great. He once more enrolled at Saint Mary’s.

“I came house on the end of summer season and that i were given right back into my antique ways with cocaine,” he said. “and eventually, i attempted crack for the first time and that was sort of the start of the end for me.”

Homeless for a time, he’d sleep in the staircase of an rental construction in Fairview, N.S. He’d rob people and steal to pay for drugs. In February 2008, he was apprehended after the Dalhousie incident and incarcerated on the Burnside prison.

Watson’s mom, Roz, vividly recollects vacationing him there. the man in entrance of her wasn’t the type-hearted kid who may rescue flies and spiders from their space and place them outside.

“I keep in mind that driving back house on the Bedford Highway and just praying to God. i used to be like, ‘Take my lifestyles right at this aspect or no matter what,’ if it manner hanging him at the proper track,” she mentioned.

Watson also spent time on the Springhill jail, a medium-safety facility close to Amherst, N.S., however used to be sent to Renous, N.B., in July 2009 after he used to be suspected of being involved in a violent jail incident.

Whilst he was once within the most-safety jail, Watson used to be restricted to his cell phone during the day. but if he labored or went to university, he’d have the opportunity to get out of his mobile phone, so he selected college.

Finding solace in calculus

On the primary day of sophistication, the trainer noticed Watson had an aptitude for math and gave him a calculus textbook. Watson still has the e book, which has the words “Atlantic Insitution College. Renous, N.B.” stamped on it.

Jail life wasn’t clean for Watson. He from time to time were given into fights and would be placed in solitary confinement for weeks at a time. whenever in segregation would start with him now not having any of his personal possessions with him. After a day or two, he’d take delivery of his assets.

“i was all the time having a look ahead to getting my math textbook … greater than anything else,” said Watson.

His courting along with his folks used to be fractured.

“They had been just about at their wit’s end,” he stated. “They have been nonetheless accepting my phone calls even though.”

This university dropout turned his life around in prison. He's now working on his PhD

Watson still has the calculus textbook a instructor gave him at the Atlantic Establishment. The textbook helped modification his existence. (Robert Short/CBC)

Watson made the verdict in May 2010 to stay in solitary confinement so he would not get in to any extent further bother.

obsessed with math, Watson would have a look at in his mobile phone. His dad, Bernard James Watson, would narrow up textbooks for different topics and mail him the pages to use for classes on chemistry and physics.

Watson apologized to his oldsters for what he positioned them through over the years and vowed he used to be going to place his existence again in combination.

What the parole board said

A parole board document mentioned Watson’s behaviour modified once he permanently moved to solitary confinement.

“File information indicates that you simply have made a few admirable changes to your behaviour, attitude, motivation and dedication to switch,” it stated.

“Literally, it seems that that you just have adopted an entire (sic) other persona. you’ve gotten not too long ago placed a lot of energy for your free up plan and have expressed regret on your victims.”

Watson were given out of prison in late 2010, lived in a halfway area in Saint John, N.B., and resumed running in construction. He immediately met a woman with a 4-12 months-antique son; the couple married in February 2011.

Whilst Watson desired to go to university to check math, he did not assume that would permit him to help supply for his circle of relatives. His wife, Janelle, advised he as an alternative get an engineering diploma from New Brunswick Community Faculty. He beloved this system and graduated on the top of his magnificence, however mentioned the content was once just “scratching at the floor.” He desired to dig deeper.

Rejected by Dalhousie

Watson implemented to the engineering software at Dalhousie, the site of many of his life’s missteps. He was turned down.

“i was heartbroken,” stated Watson.

But Watson’s dad had an in. A repairman with Sears, one among his purchasers was once the then-president at Dalhousie. Watson stated his dad made a plea to him and the verdict was overturned. He began the engineering software within the 2013-14 academic yr.

the next few years for Watson have been a mix of faculty and an ever-growing family. With Janelle frequently taking maternity leaves, money was once tight. They moved in with Watson’s oldsters on a pair of events, dwelling of their basement.

“i was 30 years old with 3 kids and residing in my folks basement. I felt like a failure,” he said. (He and Janelle now have five children.)

This university dropout turned his life around in prison. He's now working on his PhD

Watson is proven in this picture from the 2013-14 educational 12 months at Dalhousie University all through his first year of engineering. He used to be first of all denied admission but his father made a private entice the school’s president. (Submitted by way of Mark Watson)

Via 2017, Watson was once just about performed his stage, however he was once dealt a major blow. His father was once diagnosed with renal cancer. Roz Watson said whilst her husband won the diagnosis from medical doctors, he excited by one thing.

“His first question was, ‘Do you think I’m Going To make it till April or May whilst my son graduates?’ That Is all he cared approximately,” she mentioned.

“He never once complained approximately his destiny or the fact that he was once dying. nevertheless it bothered him that so much that he was unlikely to be there to see Mark graduate. That was his primary fear. That used to be sad.”

Bernard James Watson died in December 2017.

This university dropout turned his life around in prison. He's now working on his PhD

Watson and his dad at a Dalhousie experience in early 2017. His father used to be quickly diagnosed with cancer and didn’t are living to look his son graduate from university. (Submitted by way of Mark Watson)

In The Course Of The roughest portions of his teenage years and early 20s, Watson’s dad at all times informed him he was able to more and needed to follow himself. He additionally inspired him to head to college.

“although I gave up on myself and that i gave up on my long term, there was all the time that concept within the back of my head that i’ll do more and that was on account of him,” stated Watson.

Bernard James Watson would not get to see his son graduate from school on the top of his magnificence. He also missed out on Watson running with a satellite tv for pc communications company as an embedded techniques engineer, to boot as Watson starting an engineering PhD and instructing part-time at Dalhousie.

“He did not end up getting to look how this tale ended,” stated Watson.

Roz Watson stated while her husband died, he knew his son used to be on the right trail.

This university dropout turned his life around in prison. He's now working on his PhD

Watson is proven together with his wife, Janelle, and their five children. This photograph used to be taken in 2020. (Submitted through Mark Watson)

“We’re in order that grateful that within the long term he did make a choice the fitting way to go along with his life,” she stated.

Tabitha Bainbridge taught Watson in high school. In Spite Of his struggles, she used to be positive he’d turn his life around. What gave her faith used to be he was once bright, compassionate and he’d stick up for other people. She said if somebody used to be past due to magnificence, he’d be the first to help the person rise up to hurry.

‘The overcoming does define who he is,’ says former trainer

A teacher for nearly three a long time — all at Sir John A./Bay View — she’s saved involved with Watson. She’d like to look him tell his tale to students.

“He has come to phrases with what he did and he realizes that it does not outline him, or a minimum of the negative parts do not outline who he’s,” she said. “The overcoming does outline who he is.”

Mark Watson stated he told his story in the hopes it might assist somebody who is in a hard place or feels they are not attaining their doable.

Requested what he would tell somebody who was once in an analogous place to him, he said: “you’ve got to head all in. you’ve got to chop all ties on your past and you’ve to be ONE HUNDRED per cent dedicated. And for the long haul, like, it’s going to be a protracted street and it takes that sustained constant effort.”

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