IDAHO FALLS (AP) — Professor Grover Wray spends his days teaching sociology at Brigham Young University-Idaho.
He's well-qualified for the position.
Wray has taught at BYU-Idaho for 13 years. He has a master's degree in social work and more than a decade of professional field experience. One more thing: He's just a year away from obtaining a doctorate in education.
Yet, at least one night a week, the 50-year-old can be found working without his tie, textbooks or briefcase at Dad's Travel Center on North Yellowstone Highway in Idaho Falls.
Wray takes out the trash, stocks shelves, operates the cash register and cleans the bathrooms, tasks that he's more than happy to perform.
"I enjoy it," Wray said. "And I don't mind getting my hands dirty."
Wray started working at the gas station several months ago to help finance a family trip to Paraguay, where his youngest son is serving a Mormon mission. He plans to pay for his two eldest sons to make the trip with him because neither could finance such a trip by themselves.
"We realized that to pull from our own funds, the trip would be a hardship and I didn't want to go into debt for it," Wray said. "My wife said the trip was a great idea; I just had to find a way to pay for it."
The Grant native chose to work at the gas station because he knew the owner and it didn't conflict with his day job.
In the beginning, Wray said working at Dad's was all about making the extra money. After a few months, however, the job took on a whole other meaning for him.
"Throughout the process it stopped being about the money and more about my children seeing that I was willing to work wherever and to do whatever in order to not go into debt for things," Wray said.
Son Tyler Wray said his dad set a great example.
"My dad has always taught us that if you want something, you work for it," Wray said. "This is living proof that he lives by his word."
The experience also taught Grover Wray about how others view those working in low-paying service professions.
Many acquaintances show great concern when they see him working at a gas station — some even avoid making eye contact, Wray said.
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"People really look at you based on your socioeconomic status," he said. "People look at you like that's all you can do in life and that's a sad thought, because there are some good, hard-working people at these types of jobs."
Wray has earned the $6,500 needed for the trip but continues to work at Dad's out of loyalty to the friend who hired him and because he enjoys the work.
Overall, Wray said the experience reinforces lessons he learned as a child about hard work and doing what it takes.
"Never think you're too good for something, because we aren't," Wray said. "We're all just people trying to make a go at life and are no better or worse than anyone else."