GOOD NEWS WEEK – Paul Goetchius is a 76-year-old native New Yorker and on any given day you would likely mistake him for a father. A father waiting in his vehicle to pick up his daughter from her dorm, or a dad driving across his home state of New York, to attend an event with his son.
If you pegged Goetchius as a father, you would be right, or at least partly. See, Paul Goetchius is in fact a father of three children, but these passengers are not his children, they are someone else’s. These passengers are low-income or in need college students without transportation.
Paul is a volunteer driver for the nonprofit ‘On Point for College’, and spends many of his days during the scholastic season, making sure that college students in need arrive to classes on time, or make it home for a holiday break.
Since he offered the first ride to a college student in 2010, Paul has spent the last 8 years offering his services to students. Already putting over 64,000 miles on his car while picking up and dropping off students. Some of the trips even taking as long as eight hours to complete.
For many of these students, Goetchius’s help is more than appreciated, it’s absolutely essential for them to be able to complete college. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, only 16% of low-income college students graduate. It’s not just tuition creating a financial burden, but pricey textbooks, room and board, and food stacking up. Transportation needs can also be a big part of that, not just in cost but also inconvenience.
It might be that a student doesn’t have a reliable car, or maybe they share a vehicle with parents who work 6 days a week. In some cases Paul has even driven student who were homeless.
Paul first saw the ad for the organization in a newspaper, “It said they were looking for volunteer drivers,” he told the Washington Post. “I thought, ‘Well, heck, I can drive a car.’ ”
Are the students the only one’s benefiting from Goetchius offering up his time and burning thousands of dollars in fuel, Paul says no, he says that he benefits just as much as the students do from the experience.
“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.”
Some students he has driven a dozen times or more, so much more than a one-off quick trip. Quite a few of the students he has driven have been highly successful and gone on to become physicians, and teachers, or to work in marketing.
All the time spent in the car together has even led some of the students to consider Goetchius as a role model or friend.
26-year-old Nina Irby has rode with Goetchius for all four years of college, and to her, the trips meant so much more than just free transportation. “It’s not just a ride, you’re not just sitting there in awkward silence or with your headphones on,” Irby told the Washington Post. “He asks you questions and actually remembers the answers, so the next time you ride with him, he’ll check in on those things.”
Paul’s heart to help doesn’t just begin and end in the car though. He’s been known to go above and beyond, even helping students with issues during registration, or installing dorm room window screens. He’s even hauled and helped install air conditioners. If a student has an additional need, Goetchius is often there to help out. But perhaps most importantly, when hunger strikes a student while on the road, Goetchius hasn’t ever hesitated to stop for fast food along the way, for which he’ll be insisting to cover the cost.