A former Alcovy High School student, who along with his twin brother has been self-sufficient and living on his own since age 16, is aggressively pursuing a college degree, despite high tuition costs and expensive housing.
Nathaniel Hodges, 21, and his twin brother Michael were adopted by their grandparents in 1992, shortly after a court deemed their mother unfit to raise them. Their grandfather passed away when they were 12, and their grandmother passed away four years later.
The brothers continued living in their grandparents’ home without a caretaker, surviving on only their grandmother’s diminishing Social Security payments. Against the odds, the twins graduated high school and were both accepted at Georgia State University, where they decided to further their education.
Nathaniel and his brother made the transition to college, living on campus and completing their freshman year. However, Nathaniel said, circumstances during his fall 2013 semester at GSU left him without housing and forced him to drop all of his college classes.
"It is entirely too expensive to live inside the dorms. For my first year, I couldn’t do anything. I had no extra funds," Nathaniel said. "So I moved out. I found a cheap apartment close to the school."
"Eventually what happens is I had a friend who had an emergency. I was doing slightly well, so I helped her out. While doing this, my car breaks down. Well, she is trying to find a new place to live. So eventually I get her into a program which transitions her into housing, and she’s fine now. But I have a broken car."
Nathaniel said he had his car fixed with what money he had left from financial aid, but soon found he didn’t have enough funds to cover the cost of his apartment. He weighed his options and decided to move back to Covington with friends, but he explained that the solution wasn’t working out so well, as his classes were in Atlanta. Eventually, Nathaniel found a homeless shelter for youths in Atlanta called Lost and Found, where he is currently staying to get back on his feet. He also met a professional from Georgia Perimeter College who helped him enroll in online classes part-time for the spring semester.
"I decided that I should just drop all my classes until I could find out something else to do. I knew that Georgia Perimeter was less expensive. What I really needed to do was find a job and keep it for six months because that allows me (to look) for further employment, which is pretty much what I’m doing right now," he said.
Nathaniel said he’s optimistic about his future. He said his brother Michael, who also had a tough semester at GSU during their freshman year, is now doing very well and is continuing to pursue a degree in Information Technology.
"He’s (Michael) set up to be with an exchange program. He’ll be going to Liechtenstein, which is the richest country in the world and it’s over in Europe near Germany," Nathaniel said. "He’ll be going there this summer."
Nathaniel said he and his brother grew always thinking ahead.
"At no time did we have (time) to just sit down and collect ourselves. We’ve always had to go to the next step. Like right after high school, it was straight into college. We’ve been through the death of both of our parents. We have struggled financially through high school," he said.
After a bout of hardships and challenges, Nathaniel set up a "GoFundMe" account online, where he said friends have been donating money to his "College and Emergency Fund." So far, he has raised more than $400, which he expressed his gratitude for by posting his thanks to friends on his Facebook page. Nathaniel is pursuing a degree in science and said he wants to become an engineer. His overall goal is to use his experiences to help the world and give back to his community, he said. But for now, he said, "My main goal is to get housing and get back into school full-time."