In May 2018, Uber driver Latonya Young’s passengerchanged her life. Chatting with Kevin Esch after picking him up from an AtlantaUnited soccer game, the single mom told him she was driving an Uber to pay offher electric bill, and to save enough money to go back to school. He told herto stop thinking about going back to school and to actually do it. At the endof the 20-minute ride, he gave her a $150 tip to pay off the electric bill – and they took a selfie.
The two kept in touch, a couple of weeks later, Youngtexted Esch that she tried to register for classes, but the school said shecouldn’t enroll until her outstanding balance was paid. Esch responded that hewas going to put his money where his mouth is – and remove the obstacle forher. If she wanted to go to school, he wanted to make that happen. OnJuly 2, 2018, Esch texted Young a picture of a receipt from Georgia StateUniversity’s cashier’s office – he paid the $693 Young owed."I didn’t wantthat to be what stops her," says Esch, a 45-year-old estate manager."I wanted to take care of it."
In December 2019, Young graduated with an associate’sdegree from Georgia State’s Perimeter College.
"It inspired me," says Young, 44, of herbenefactor's act of generosity. "It pushed me to go to school ... he justreally wanted me to do well. And he was a total stranger."Now, Esch is afriend and mentor. Young texts him about her grades and updates him on heracademic progress. During the pandemic, Young continued her studiesonline, and in Spring 2021 she plans to graduate with her bachelor’sdegree in criminal justice from Georgia State’s AndrewYoung School of Policy Studies. (After she graduates, she’s debatingwhether to go to law school or nursing school to help fight the pandemic.)
"I gained a friend," she of her bond withEsch."I’m so incredibly proud of her," says Esch. "The ultimatepayback that I can get is watching her graduate."