Tech student Justin Seals has been making local headlines after revealing that he had been living in his car during the previous school year.
Interviewed recently by both Cookeville’s Herald-Citizen and Nashville’s News 2, Seals shared the story that many students nationwide face daily.
Seals, a sophomore computer science major, had spent several months sleeping in his car after not receiving enough financial aid to afford housing, tuition and a meal plan during his freshman year.
He further states that he was also planning to move in with friends at the time, but because of a lack of communication between him and friends, he ended up staying in his car.
“I stayed in my car for a week until they were ready for me to move in so that I wouldn’t be in the way, but they never actually let me know that they were ready,” said Seals. “And since they didn’t get back to me, they made me feel like they didn’t want me there. So a week turned into a semester.”
While living in his car that he affectionately named “Wanda the Honda,” he stayed at the library until closing and snuck into dorms to shower and brush his teeth.
Seals posted a GoFundMe profile asking for assistance after totaling “Wanda” while heading home during January’s snowstorm.
“I had heard of people using GoFundMe,” said Seals, “so I made one the day after my ER visit after the accident and explained my story, just to see how I would do. I shared it eight days later. It was hard; it was embarrassing.”
So far, Seals’ GoFundMe profile has raised $1,619 of his projected $25 thousand goal. He has used some of the funds raised to buy a new laptop to replace the one damaged in his car accident.
“People kept asking me why I haven’t used the funds to buy a new car, and why I bought a laptop instead. I’m a computer science major, I need it for my education,” said Seals.
Presently, Seals has been staying with friends off campus.
“I met with (Student Affairs) Vice President Marc Burnett recently and he gave me options, but me and my fiancée are now living with a few friends that pay reasonable rent that I can afford,” said Seals. “And when I’m not getting a ride to campus, it’s about a 20 minute walk from their place.”
He also states that he receives help from Tech’s Food Pantry for food and other supplies.
“They gave me a backpack, and told me that I can go and get food from them once a week,” said Seals.
For the future, Seals plans to work during spring break and throughout the summer to save up for a new car. As for the GoFundMe page, the funds that are donated will go toward paying for a vehicle and helping with rent and school supplies.
“If I do manage to get a vehicle this summer, I plan to only use it for transportation and not for housing anymore,” said Seals.