College Essay: Zach Corbin to attend Washington and Lee University

College Essay: Zach Corbin to attend Washington and Lee University

Zach Corbin

I was driving down rugged State Route 131 headed towards downtown Newtonsville. The pale, rundown buildings seemed to contrast with the vibrant, joyous 12-year-old sitting in the passenger seat. His name, Ezekiah “Ezzy” Williams: a kid that has faced tremendous adversity throughout his life. His mother left him when he was an infant, taken by an overdose. His father roams in and out of “the pen”, shepherded by drug use relapses. Ezzy is my cousin, and he lives with our grandparents, whose strength, comparable to no one, is showcased by years of sobriety. On this afternoon, I was taking Ezzy back to my grandparent’s house, as we had finished our regular babysitting session at my home.

As our vehicle cruised through downtown Newtonsville, me and Ezzy were talking about the newest Minecraft update. I’ve made this drive hundreds of times, so I didn’t think much of the surroundings. Newtonsville is a tiny, now dissolved village hit hard by the heroin epidemic. Decrepit homes that once housed happy families and boarded business windows can only show what once was. Ezzy pointed at one of these buildings. He pointed at busted windows, faded light blue paint, and missing clapboards. He then said, “I saw my best friend’s dad get carried out of that house one time. He was dead, on heroin. I was on the school bus with her when it happened.”


I mean, how do you even respond to that?! I told him, “Oh my goodness, that’s terrible” (Obviously, a lackluster response). But what else could I say?! I’ve never witnessed an overdose, or even something remotely as appalling. I grew up in a sheltered, safe suburban community. At age 12, I was learning about manners and etiquette- not overdoses. As Ezzy’s mentor, I feel like I should always have the right words to say to help him. But I couldn’t find those words.

Lucky for me, a 12-year-old would rather change the subject than sit in silence. We went back to talking about the new update. We exited the small town, now just a few left hand turns from my grandparent’s house. My tires crunched through the gravel driveway, and I walked Ezzy to the front door. After some small talk with Grandma, goodbyes, and I-love-yous, I headed back to my 2014 GMC Terrain, my mind circling back to the car ride, Ezzy’s words, and Ezzy’s rough life.

During my solo ride home, my overthinking prompted a sinister, but practical question. What if, in the future, that was Ezzy being carried out of a house, stricken down by the heroin epidemic that devasted much of Clermont County? My grandparents, parents, and I have done a great job protecting him, but I’m going off to college soon. Will they be able to protect him if I’m hundreds of miles away? Of course I’ll still be in his life, but I won’t have all the little moments that mean so much: the late night video game playing, the summer swims in the pool, the walks through the woods, or just our car rides when we talk.

I’m sure our little car ride conversation didn’t stick with Ezzy like it stuck with me. While I’m incredibly proud of my 12-year-old buddy for all the adversity he has faced, I worry. I worry about his future, and mine. Will my new college really feel like home without Ezzy? Without him in my passenger’s seat? Sure, I’ve helped Ezzy, but I owe him more. I owe him for a myriad of life lessons, but most importantly for teaching me to make the most of every opportunity. Not everyone is born with the same opportunities, and I’m grateful to be given the opportunity to apply to college. Wherever my new college home is, that last car ride will be hard. I’ll certainly be thinking of Ezzy in my passenger seat.