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Find Your Bearings By the Rising Stars

When preparing this month’s issue, one thing stood out among all others, and its focus has little to do with COVID-19. How’s that for a breath of fresh air? This sentiment sums up this month’s “Rising Stars” profiles of industry leaders.

Over the summer, amid all the anxiety that the new novel coronavirus caused regarding school startup, magazine readers submitted nearly 70 nominations of student transporters who they found worthy of us profiling in our fifth annual installment. The list encompasses those who might be new to the industry, or perhaps they’ve logged decades but have yet to receive national recognition.

These are people who are making positive differences in their local operations, day in and day out. They might not be household names, but they can or should be.

One of my own criticisms about our industry coverage is that too often we tend to talk to the same people for comment on various articles. I’m seemingly on a nonstop search for new voices to share, and when developing magazine and website articles or podcast episodes, it never escapes me the need to broaden our reach and capture new viewpoints. But in reality, and especially amid deadlines, sometimes the tried-and-true contacts are the ones who respond with the necessary information in time.

Plus, when dealing with issues regarding innovation and embracing new technologies, it can prove difficult to identify operations outside of the “inner circle” that have the requisite experience with a new solution and data to back it up. And, truth be told, they are familiar.

Also, with nearly 30,000 professionals in the magazine’s subscription roll, not to mention the literally hundreds of thousands of additional professional minds across North America to potentially tap, the task is more than a bit daunting.

When it comes time to prepare “Rising Stars” each year, I feel rejuvenated. I learn of people who are doing great work for their district or company, providing leadership in their community and state, that I may never have met otherwise. Maybe they’ve attended one of our conferences, and perhaps they even introduced themselves to me, but in the haze of 16-hour days, I forgot.

Others I do know or their names are familiar. I might also recognize and respect the supervisor or associate who nominated them.

This is not to discount the dozens of other nominees who aren’t profiled this month starting on page 38. I want to be clear that this is not a competition but a reflection of the most captivating stories we received. That’s not to say the others are worthless. Not at all. For whatever reason, one nomination didn’t resonate as strongly as another. And alas, we only have so many pages in print, so there are difficult decisions to be made.

I congratulate all who were nominated this year and I thank those readers who introduced them to us. Stay tuned, as inevitably we will focus on many of these individuals in future web and magazine articles.

Regardless, the exercise each year (and a similar one undertaken for our August “Garage Stars”) forces me to refocus mine on the School Transportation News mission of being the host of industry conversations. In reviewing this year’s nominations, what struck me was the number of finalists that told a similar story, of a parent who entered the industry because of the flexibility it afforded them when also caring for their young children. The next thing they knew, the yellow bus fever took hold.

Student transportation, whether you’re physically driving the bus or supplying the vehicle, equipment or software has that effect. It’s like no other profession I’ve covered or worked in. It’s a people-centered business predicated on family. It’s about the resiliency and drive of a single parent who seeks a better life for their children. It’s about the values of courage and commitment brought to the industry by a military veteran.

Whatever their ages, these professionals represent the future of school busing. Their stories will likely remind you why you entered and then remained in the industry. Get to know them. I know I will.

Editor’s Note: As reprinted from the October issue of School Transportation News.

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