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With inspiration and support from his parents, Cody Crothers pulled out all the stops to raise money for college--and the effort paid off. (Photo by WCPO Contributor Samantha Grier)
HILLSBORO, Ohio - Anyone who researches the millennial generation will find a disproportionate number of articles on two topics: Those accusing the generation of possessing a host of less than desirable characteristics, and those written by millennials defending their generation from harsh criticism.
This five-part series will take a closer look at local millennials, who are defining their generation and setting a precedent for others to follow.
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This five-part series will take a closer look at local millennials, who are defining their generation and setting a precedent for others to follow. MORE: Who are the millennials?
Hillsboro native Cody Crothers says his parents are the opposite of “hovering.” Still, he says they have always "been there” for him with support and advice.
The 20-year-old gained notoriety last December as “Beechmont’s Dancing Man." He held a sign advertising mattresses while dancing five days a week, eight hours a day . He took the job occupying space along the busy thoroughfare in part to pay for college.
“College didn’t work out financially at first, so I took that job,” he said. “I just wanted to save some money for college, but I also wanted to use it to build some confidence for myself. That’s part of the reason why I decided to dance and not simply hold a sign.”
Crothers hit the avenue each day. His rain or shine optimism prompted two local commuters, Lisa Connelly and Danielle Toft, to set up a Facebook page for college donations and even organize a flash mob in his honor. The story went viral, reaching media around the world. He even received donations from people overseas, raising enough money to pay for one semester at Ohio State.
“I’m personally a very spiritual person, so it’s sort of, it just restored my faith that people are naturally good,” he said. “I met the ladies who started the Facebook page and organized the flash mob and they are such terrific people. That’s just a bonus of the whole experience is just getting to know them and befriending them.”
Throughout the Cody Crothers college campaign, father Keith Crothers acted as a sort of publicity agent, diligently alerting local media outlets, including 9 On Your Side, about his son's activities.
A 2010 Pew Research Center study on millennials finds them the most educated generation in history, with 39 percent either currently enrolled in college or having already earned a degree. But even with one paid semester, Crothers is facing the burden of his generation, skyrocketing tuition costs and rising interest rates on student loans.
As the youngest of four children, it was Crothers’ dream to attend Miami of Ohio University, but due to financial constraints he had to change institutions. Keith Crothers said his son quickly rebounded, getting accepted into Ohio State with the intent of working to pay his tuition.
“Cody is a self-driven young man, but he’s also very private,” he explained. “So my wife and I were actually very moved that he would do that because it was kind of out of character at first. But he did it – and again, that’s that self-motivation to get money for school.”
A fine line between coddling and caring
As parents, Keith and his wife Becky Crothers always tried to be strong role models for their children. They both worked full-time and never missed a day on the job. Keith Crothers describes his youngest son as an achiever, a trait inherited from both his parents. In terms of raising their children, Crothers explained they always took in interest and made the extra effort to be involved in their children’s lives.
“Anything our kids have ever done or ever wanted to do, my wife and I have been right there to support them,” he said.
So is taking a focused interest in your child’s well-being a bad thing?
According to an article in Slate, children who are the product of helicopter parenting have trouble with conflict resolution.The article blames overprotective parents for fixing every problem, leaving their kids unable to even face minor disappointments in the real world. A 2013 study in the Journal of Family and Child Studies reported children who experienced helicopter parenting experienced higher levels of depression and increased use of antidepressants.
Perhaps a fine line exists between too much and right amount of attention. The youngest Crothers explained he doesn’t see his
parents as coddling, but instead as inspirational. He credits their strong values and work ethic for instilling the tenacity that helped him achieve his goal. Based on his Beechmont gig, it doesn't appear that Crothers has a problem solving problems.
“If I knew if I wanted to go to college, I would have to work hard, even if that if that required me to work twice as hard as someone else,” he said. “So my parents taught me to have that work ethic and that it would go far in life.”
No stopping this millennial
Crothers knows an abundance of financial uncertainty looms for his generation. As far as critics saying his generation is coddled and selfish, he just doesn't see it.
“From my experience with my friends and people my own age, that’s not true,” he said. “My friends who are my age have experienced a lot of hardships and are extremely strong and grounded and just very kind and empathetic people – in fact they’re the kindest people outside of my family that I know.”
At Ohio State, Crothers is majoring in English with hopes of being a teacher, a writer or both. He explained his sudden celebrity hasn’t impacted his motivation or his focus to earn money for his education. For those commuters wondering if the Dancing Man will return, Crothers plans to occupy his regular spot on Beechmont Avenue in the near future.
“Actually I’m going to be there for spring break. March 10 through 14,” he said.
Editor’s Note: Look for Part IV of this series Wednesday. We'll meet Brent Kruithof who says he "followed the playbook" for his career--until he decided to follow his dreams instead.