Paul Goetchius is supporting low-income students one car ride at a time.
The 76-year-old retired environmental toxicologist from Syracuse drives low-income college students to and from school all around New York, the Washington Post reports. He’s already put 64,368 miles on his car picking up students in between breaks and will take trips as long as eight hours.
“I just love driving, and I love these kids,” Goetchius said to the Washington Post.
“There are programs for everything, and I’m not really a program man. But I like to drive, and it’s such a blessing and a privilege to be a part of these kids’ lives, even just for a few hours, getting to know them and hearing their stories.”
Goetchius has helped students who needed rides because their family’s don’t own cars, or their parents can’t leave work to drive them home. In some cases, the students are homeless.
This retiree has driven 64,000 miles helping low-income students get to college https://t.co/05lOCskPAY— The Washington Post (@washingtonpost) December 10, 2018
“What happens when a low-income student gets a full scholarship to Cornell University but has no one to give him a ride to get him there?” Samuel Rowser, director of On Point for College asked.
Only 16% of low-income college students graduate, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. Tuition isn’t the only financial burden disadvantage students face — pricey textbooks, room and board, and food add up.
Goetchius will pick up students in any part of New York state, with the exception of New York City because he doesn’t want to deal with the traffic. He ends up spending around $1,000 a year on gas providing this service. Goetchius even makes sure to treat students to Dunkin’ Donuts or Burger King on the way.
Goetchius, a father of three, first started driving college students when he gave a nursing student a three-hour ride from the University of Buffalo in 2010. He’s been offering his services ever since.
He found the opportunity through the grass-roots nonprofit On Point for College, that helps low-income youth get into college. The organization generates a database of between 100 and 150 students who need rides to connect them with available volunteers. People from all walks of life have donated their time to the organization, including the former mayor of Syracuse.
“It said they were looking for volunteer drivers,” he told the Washington Post. “I thought, ‘Well, heck, I can drive a car.’ ”
Goetchius’ generosity extends beyond driving. He said he once dropped off a student whose off-campus housing didn’t have air conditioning, so he drove them to Home Depot to pick up a unit and install it.
Goetchius has driven some students home from school a dozen times or more. He’s developed a familial bond with the students and said some of them now call him “Grandpa.”
Nira Irby, a 26-year-old who now works at Microsoft, was especially touched. She told the Washington Post her family didn’t always have the means to support her financially.
“Having a ride, having that one big thing taken off my plate, by someone who cared — it was so important to me, more than he knew,” she said.