BCHS guidance counselor Vickie Bivens changed my life. She may even have saved my life.
My family didn’t have much money. My father worked as a coal miner when he was not laid off, nor hurt in one accident or another.
Further, my family did not exactly have a grand academic tradition. My father was not the world’s greatest student. He dropped out in junior high school to go to work. His family considered this a smart move. Who needs education, anyway? My mother graduated from high school and this was considered a big achievement. With the exception of one uncle who got a college diploma while in the Navy, I didn’t know anyone in my extended family who had even attended college, let alone graduated.
Because of this tradition and the lack of money, I thought college was something for other people, not people like me. I didn’t apply to any colleges. My only career plan was to enlist in the Army after graduating from high school. Further, I decided I would volunteer to serve in the infantry. This was not exactly the safest plan for a young man during the Vietnam war, but I felt like if my country was in a fight, I wanted to go where the need was greatest.
My patriotic sentiments were not unusual for that part of the country at that time. West Virginians died at a disproportionate rate in Vietnam. According to the West Virginia Encyclopedia, West Virginia citizens had a death rate of 8.41 per 10,000 residents for the war as a whole compared to the national rate of 5.89.
I never approached Ms. Bivens because I thought it would be a waste of time for somebody from my family. Late in the spring of our senior year she casually asked me which college I would attend, I told her about my career plan. Though it was late in the admissions season, she called people she knew at Concord College and arranged a financial aid package for me.
Vickie Bivens did right by me and many other BCHS students, and we are grateful to her.