Cody Nunley: Better access to higher education crucial to WV

Every family I know has someone who has been affected by the drug crisis.

For me, it started when I was really young. As I grew up, my situation at home made me anti-social. I always wanted to be by myself. I didn’t want to bring friends home and have them see my mom on drugs. It affected me socially. And if you can’t trust the people you love, you can’t trust anybody.

When I had a bad day at home, I would have trouble with doing schoolwork or doing well in school.

I could see the lives my parents had, and I didn’t want that. I would do anything to not have that life. You can’t even walk through my hometown of Logan without seeing how drugs have affected that town. I wanted a better life.

When I turned 18, I packed my things and left home. I chose homelessness over living in that environment. Struggling to pay for community college, I spent a year living in my car, taking showers in the rec center, and then going to classes.

Seeing what my family went through, I wanted to help other people who were going through that. After a year, I had saved enough money to go to Marshall University and study to be a social worker. Community college was the first step forward that I needed. Before, a happy future was like something I was imagining — not real. I was imagining having a stable life and the money so that I didn’t have to worry about how I was going to pay rent or what bills I was going to pay. That is what I wanted to work for. College showed me that there really is hope for people like me. If you work hard and do the things you have to do, you really can succeed.

Now, I am reading about Congress debating the Build Back Better plan to give everyone two years of free community college. I’ll say that this should have been enacted a long time ago. The number of people who miss out on community college only because of funding is ridiculous. They don’t even get to step through the front door to see what it’s like.

I am very excited that this is happening now. I hope Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., understands that, for people to get out of their situation, they need higher education, whether it is vocational school, community college or university. When you are trapped in something like I was for so long, you need help to take small steps to see the importance of yourself and see your potential.

Seems to me that this debate is all about our nation’s priorities. I believe we need government assistance; no one deserves to be poor and go without food and housing. I think those things are very important. However, we also should be giving people a hand up, so that they can meet their own needs. Two years of free community college is that hand up, that one step forward that makes potential real, that raises your eyes up.

If young people in places like Logan, Chapmanville and Farmington knew they could go to community college for two years, for free, it would signify that they can make choices about their future.

Cody Nunley, of Logan, is a student at Marshall University.

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