AUBURN, Ala. (WRBL) – A designated parking space at Auburn High School is a reason to celebrate for one high school student who worked three years alongside his dedicated driver’s education coach to earn his permit.
Last Friday, Coach Scott Goolsby and student Eric Cha met in the parking lot at Auburn High School. As Cha’s classmates and teachers cheered, Coach Goolsby presented Cha with his very own parking spot and pass.
“He taught me how to drive, to watch both ways and follow the traffic signals, etcetera,” said Cha.
Cha’s teacher Lauren Ozment shared the moment on social media with a video and pictures.
“As an advocate for individuals with disabilities, I am beyond blessed to have watched the growth and persistence of this young man. Eric is the epitome of the word dedication,” shared Ozment.
News 3 met with Ms. Ozment, Cha, and Coach Goolsby on Tuesday to hear more about how the two worked for three years to make Cha’s dream of independent driving a reality. Coach Goosby also coaches the linebackers for the Auburn High School Football team. Goolsby is a fan of hard work and recognized Cha’s work ethic immediately.
“He is the kind of kid that came in every day and was ready to go ready to learn. He was like, please teach me how to drive! What can I do? He was very determined,” shared Coach Goolsby.
Cha took driver’s education twice with Coach Goolsby. Recognizing he needed some extra practice behind the wheel, Coach Goolsby and Cha met during lunchtime at least once or twice a week for a trip off-campus. Cha would drive Coach Goolsby to lunch, where the two would share a meal, and Cha would drive them back to campus.
“It was just an immediate connection. They were buddies. He picked him up and went to lunch. And Coach Goolsby would also teach him life skills along the way. It was very cool to watch.” said Ozment.
Coach Goolsby says he enjoyed the extra lessons because Cha is the type of student you want to be around with a fantastic attitude. Goolsby says he’s taught thousands of students how to drive, but Cha stands out because of his determination to coast over obstacles and his friendly personality.
“I’ve been doing this for 20 years, and I will always remember Eric as a standout student. It’s nice to see you’re making an impact as an educator. Eric is just one of those people that make you want to be a better person, too,” shared Coach Goolsby.
After nearly three years of studying and extra lessons with his coach, Cha earned his permit. He’s been driving for a while now. However, until last week, Cha couldn’t drive himself to school because he didn’t have a parking spot. Ozment made arrangements for Cha to get a space and asked Coach Goolsby to surprise him.
“Being his teacher, I want to see him have a quality of life after he graduates high school. He is incredible. As an advocate for people like Eric, this is possible. He is one of the safest drivers out there. I’ve ridden with him, and I’m like I need to improve my skills,” shared Ozment.
Cha can now drive to school and leave after right after class, making it easier for him to arrive on time as he pursues other dreams.
“Friday, I was able to drive myself after school to basketball practice where I participate in Special Olympics practice, so it’s good,” shared Cha.
Eric is proof a determined spirit can overcome bumps in the road, especially with a friend like Coach Goolsby riding shotgun.
“I thank him very much, cause he is the best coach. He coached me very well,” said Cha.
Cha says his favorite places to drive our church on Sunday’s and out to eat, especially if he has a coupon. Cha is a talented artist and has an eye for creating beautiful graphic designs.
Cha and Coach Goolsby remain close friends. Cha will graduate from Auburn High School this year, and Coach Goolsby says he can’t wait to follow Cha and see what else he accomplishes on his journey.