ASHLAND, Ohio – The pandemic was responsible for the hard hit finances took in the Hutchings’ household near Cleveland.
His parents' financial and work struggles were not lost on their youngest child, Giovanni, who was living at home and trying to adjust to Ashland University’s remote learning.
His father, a former football player at Division 1 Toledo, had a successful personal training business he built from the ground up. But COVID-19 forced the closing of gyms and work-out facilities, which meant his business shut down.
“I’ve never seen him not work,” Hutchings said.
On the other hand, Hutchings’s mother – a nurse in a nursing care facility – had more work than ever. But she did that work in a face mask, plus a face shield and a gown. “It took her at least two months to get used to it,” he said.
Hutchings said he tried to make the best of it -- being with his family more, learning to be flexible, appreciating everything he did have and even convening an online Bible study on Sunday evenings with friends from high school.
And he tried hard not to think about the family finances. Even though Hutchings has a partial football scholarship, he said, “I have been struggling to pay for my tuition since I've been a freshman here. My parents do their very best to put me in the best situations for me to be successful. I have taken quite a bit of loans already; financially school is a struggle.”
He figured he could get another loan, or lengthen the payment period on the loans. Frankly, he said, the idea of dropping out had also crossed his mind. “I try to keep my head positive,” Hutchings said, “but at that moment, it was hard to know.”
Then the Eagle Success Grant program was announced. Designed for current AU students who were finding it difficult to bridge the gap between what they owed and what they could pay, the microgrants were made possible through the generous gifts of Bob and Jan Archer.
Hutchings applied for and received $1,000. The best thing about the grant, even beyond helping to stay at AU, was “it took the weight off my parents.” At this point, his dad’s business is up and running. “A lot of his clients did come back pretty quickly,” Hutchings said, “but it took some time before they all came.”
Now, back on campus and back on the football team, Hutchings – who is slated to graduate in Spring 2023 – can get back to work. A Criminal Justice major, with minors in Political science and Christian Ministry, Hutchings is currently interning at the Richland County Prosecutor’s Office. “I help the (prosecutors) with their cases and make it easier for them,” he said, noting that case files need to be set up and maintained so the attorneys are organized and ready to go to court.
And he recently sat in on his first sentencing hearing. “This judge, he wanted to see remorse (from the offender) and he didn’t get that remorse.”
The internship has given Hutchings another chance to think about the meaning of justice, a concept explored in one of the classes he is taking as an Ashbrook Scholar, a distinction he did not receive until fall semester of his sophomore year. Eager, he said, to always be around achievers, he spoke to instructors at Ashbrook about the program. He then completed an online application and engaged in a lengthy interview, during which he read some complex writings of Lincoln and discussed what he’d read.
Now, Hutchings is reading Plato and Socrates – and is with his classmates in discussing the true meaning of justice.
He’s still playing football and is thankful for the academic opportunities it afforded him. “I can take the education a lot farther,” he said, “than I can take the sports.” He hopes other athletes will, too. But for him, it will be the law – not athletics – that will be where his energy is spent.
He credits Ashland for helping him realize his life calling and for supporting him as he gets closer to it. While he chose Ashland, Hutchings said, it also chose him.
“In a school like this, people know your name,” Hutchings said. “They know you, they want to know you.” The university is where Hutchings discovered the foundation of his faith, which informs his career choices.
And thanks to an Eagle Success Grant, Hutchings will stay at AU until God puts him on the path to his next phase of life.
Ashland University is a mid-sized, private university conveniently located a short distance from Akron, Cleveland and Columbus, Ohio. Ashland University (www.ashland.edu) values the individual student and offers a unique educational experience that combines the challenge of strong, applied academic programs with a faculty and staff who build nurturing relationships with their students.###