August 18, 2011

Once-homeless Fort Worth student gets a dorm makeover

A Texas Wesleyan University freshman has a stylish new room thanks to Goodwill.

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FORT WORTH -- Too many times in Micah Young's life, the school day ended and he wondered where he'd sleep that night.

His mom died when he was 6. After that, he bounced between relatives' homes. Or he crashed on friends' sofas. He even slept outside his middle school.

There was no home to return to when class was over.

"I just sort of stayed where I could, when I could," he says.

So it was an unfamiliar feeling Thursday morning when he walked into his dormitory at Texas Wesleyan University and found new furnishings, wall decor, picture frames and a television.

Goodwill Industries of Fort Worth redecorated the 20-year-old freshman's room after he won an essay contest in which he told his life story. Until Thursday, the room he has lived in since June had little more than a bed with a green sheet, a chair and a box fan.

"Cool, I have a couch!" Young exclaimed when he walked into the room and saw a black sofa with footstools.

On his bed were matching linens and blankets. Next to it was a nightstand with a lamp. A desk chair. New cereal bowls. A chess set.

Record album covers hung on one wall, the records on another. REO Speedwagon. Heart. The Doobie Brothers. A disco ball hung from the ceiling.

"After meeting him, we decided a '70s, funky vibe would fit him pretty well," said David Cox, vice president of retail sales for Goodwill Industries.

Goodwill officials found the furnishings at its 19 stores in the Fort Worth area, he said. Other college students looking for affordable furnishings might want to take note: The total retail value of the items was $315.

Young said that after his mother died, his grandmother shopped for him at Goodwill, so he has always appreciated the organization.

He entered his essay at the encouragement of university officials. He planned to write a short one about himself, but then "it started pouring out." He submitted a four-page document.

Young wrote about his mom dying, difficult family situations, running away and living with friends. He acknowledged his own mistakes, falling into bad habits and in with the wrong crowd. He didn't always appreciate structure or rules.

But he worked hard to finish school, graduating from Lamar High School in Arlington in 2009. He wrote about leaving community college after a semester because, without his own transportation, commuting to school and his job became too much, especially with uncertain living conditions.

Young said he enrolled at Texas Wesleyan after talking to former students, meeting staff and touring the dormitory. He earned a scholarship. Having a comfortable room to return to and study in after class would be a great help, Young told Goodwill officials.

He plans to study psychology and criminal justice and has joined the school's cheer team.

"When you have hardships in life, it's easy to think that things like going to college are out of reach," he said, settling onto his couch. "People should know it's not."

Alex Branch, 817-390-7689

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