A University of Washington student found success, and answers about her father’s addiction

Evan Bush:

Nearly eight years later, Mackenzie is a 21-year-old brimming with success. Soon, she will graduate with two University of Washington degrees: one in neurobiology, and another in bioengineering. She was nominated for the engineering school’s Dean’s medal. She’s a powerlifting champion and a budding entrepreneur. University lecturers rave; classmates can’t understand how she makes it all fit. Next year, she’ll pursue a masters at UW.

All the while, Mackenzie’s been searching.

She couldn’t have known it at the time. But her father’s arrest would send her on a yearslong quest, both academic and personal, to understand his stumbles and why her family fell apart. The pain of her family’s fracture would propel and shape her college career.

Addiction is a disease, her mother, Karina Andrews, told her at the time.

“I wanted proof,” Mackenzie says.

JUST WHY Mackenzie’s family unraveled is something of a debate.

All agree they began as a happy bunch, with a math-whiz daughter who favored playing in the dirt to Barbies.

As a youngster, Mackenzie climbed everything. On playgrounds, she walked across the monkey bars.

“It was important to teach her how to fall,” Karina says.

Sometimes, she wore her parents out with her energy. Her first time on a gymnastics mat, she refused to leave. On a road trip, Mackenzie, just 6 years old, demanded math problems — square roots, no less — from the back seat.

Mackenzie spent hours wiring an electronics kit, a gift from her father. She first put him in checkmate in second grade. She loved sitting on his lap amid the jungle of wires ensnaring his office.

Karina, an artist, taught her daughter to shape clay figurines. Mark brought her to job sites and taught her how to splice wires into connectors.

She was so mature, her parents called her an “old soul.