Sharon Parker, a school bus monitor at First Student in Marysville, Ohio, was recently awarded the Community Starfish Award by the Union County Board of Developmental Disabilities. The award is given to those who go above and beyond the usual call of duty in order to benefit individuals with developmental disabilities.
“Sharon is most deserving of this special recognition,” said Alan Mustard, First Student location manager. “She is dedicated to the children she helps transport, and is committed to making riding the bus a positive experience by showing them care, compassion and respect.”
Parker is a monitor for the Harold Lewis Center, which provides preschool education for children with disabilities.
Parker told STN that she has worked as a bus monitor at First Student since March 2010, shortly following her retirement from working at a grocery store for 23 years.
“I was looking for something different. My husband was already a bus monitor and he told me they had an opening. I thought I might like it. He likes it and we both love kids,” she said.
Parker added that she was in shock to learn she had been chosen for the award, and that she did not know she would be receiving it until the ceremony.
“We were told that the board wanted to have a meeting with us, and that everyone was required to attend. Being so close to the end of the school year, I thought it had something to do with transportation changes,” she said. “When they said they were giving out an award, I never dreamt it was for me.”
She added that she was overcome with emotion when she heard her name called.
“I cried,” she said. “The award means so much to me, because people all their lives hope that they’re making a difference, and that’s what this award is for. I was never trying to get any award. I just did what I did, because that’s what I do.”
To engage and entertain the children during the bus rides, Parker has incorporated games, songs, reading and incentives for good behavior. Her nickname for her group of sutdents is the “Mighty Flying Aces," for which she came up with a cheer she knew from high school. She said that the kids like to “put their arms out like they’re flying” when they do it.
Aside from coming up with fun songs and games, Parker also keeps a list of each child’s birthday, for which she gives them a card she designs, along with a birthday ribbon and a punch balloon.
She said it is very important to her that the children are entertained during the ride, and that their parents know that she is doing the best she can to keep them safe.
“You have to find that little bit of a connection that makes them happy to get on the bus and relax, because for some kids at that age, especially some of them with disabilities, leaving mom and dad and getting on that bus can be a scary thing,” she noted.