The first student Paul Goetchius ever drove to college, other than his own kids — he and his wife have three grown children, plus five grandchildren — was a young woman studying nursing at the University at Buffalo in 2010. He found out she needed a lift after he had seen an article in the local paper about On Point for College, a grass-roots nonprofit in Syracuse that helps disadvantaged kids get to college. “It said they were looking for volunteer drivers,” he said. “I thought, ‘Well, heck, I can drive a car.’ ” He so enjoyed their conversation during the three-hour ride that he decided to sign up again. 8 years later he is still driving kids to college. It doesn’t matter if it is an hour or five hours, if these kids need a lift he will be happy to pick them up, and drive them almost anywhere in New York State; he even stops for breakfast or lunch on him. The one place he doesn’t go is New York City, he says there is too much traffic.
In the past eight years, Goetchius, 76, a retired environmental toxicologist from Syracuse, N.Y., has logged a jaw-dropping 64,368 miles driving low-income college students to and from universities all around his state for holidays, spring break, summer break and more. That’s enough to have circled the globe about two and a half times. So why does he do it? Because of the connections he makes, the stories he hears, and because these kids need him. Whether it is the refugee girl from Rwanda who escaped men trying to kill her who is now a special-education teacher, or that first student who is now a physician, the people he has met and the lives that he has seen progress are reason enough for him to spend the $1000 a year on gas and who knows how much more on maintenance.
It is inspiring to hear that one person can make so much impact on so many lives by doing nothing more than driving, but these kids get to go to college and many to come home for the holidays, because of Paul Goetchius and his willingness to be their ride.
Read more about this great volunteer and the stories he has learned in your Good News Story of the Day here.
Story and Images from the Washington Post.