It’s scary...there’s no TV on, there’s no ticks on the clock to make even a little bit of noise, you can hear any and every little thing inside and outside.
He never asked for this so young. These responsibilities or living his life in this darkness. The truth is, since Brandon’s father died two years ago when Brandon was 25 years old, nothing has ever been the same. He didn't suspect it would ever be again. The mysteries of his father’s death haunted him. How could someone die from lung cancer when they’ve never even smoked a day in their life? Did his job at the local paper mill have something to do with it? He longed for an answer but wasn’t sure if he’d ever find one.
“Growing up, you go through so many obstacles and hard setbacks that make you stronger. I think that situation just focused me on becoming better and doing better, making sure that situation never happens again.”
The situation that Brandon Haynes found himself in was losing everything after his father passed. He inherited the family home but, as a student, how was someone so young expected to get an education while struggling to pay all the bills by himself? Brandon’s situation isn’t the first of its kind. In fact, many young people in Georgetown County find themselves in similar conditions.1 They are struggling to keep their lights on and to make payments on a home they inherited and won’t be able to keep for long. As the county’s poverty rates continued to increase, Brandon became determined to stay in school and make a better life for himself; even if that meant getting far away from South Carolina and the community he’d always known.2
“Having your lights turned off, it’s the worst thing because you have to wash in cold water and you have to use candles at night time to see, and you can’t do any schoolwork ‘cause there’s no power and it just cut you off from everything, [even] basic necessities like cooking. I had to cook on the little gas burner hot plate for like a week. It was just tough. I can’t explain it. You can’t imagine just living in a house like two or three weeks of no lights. It was mad creepy in there.”3
Against all odds and fears, he continues to persevere in college. Growing up in Choppee, he has faced extreme adversity in an impoverished community. One that seems to have lost all hope. Most Choppee men his age have been in and out of jail and have no sense of direction. The lack of proper education systems make the situation worse. But, Brandon continues to drive an hour to school, struggling to find the money to get there. How does one know such dedication to an ideal and purpose when coming from a community without incentives? As a political science major Brandon hopes to have a positive impact on struggling communities like his hometown. He studies the law and policies he needs in order to change things for the better. He recognizes that his hardships have shaped him into the person he is today: passionate about working hard to graduate college, despite the odds that tell him he can’t succeed. But Brandon also acknowledges his responsibilities far surpass his years and if he didn’t have to worry about living in darkness, he could’ve been able to do so much more for himself and his education.
“If it weren’t for that situation, lord knows where I’d be.”
Along the coast of South Carolina, many young adults and families struggle to make ends meet. Brandon's difficult situation is not uncommon.
Brandon works while attending school full-time leaving little time for anything else. Unemployment is high in South Carolina and job availability is mostly seasonal. Brandon has a difficult time seeing a future here after graduation.
South Carolina's rates per kilowatt hour are high compared to the state's median income.