Michelle Minor, a school bus driver for Gwinnett County Public Schools near Atlanta, said it’s always been in her nature to help those in need. So, when the opportunity presented itself to give students their own space while virtual learning, she didn’t think twice about donating her time.
“These kids need a positive spot to learn,” Minor told School Transportation News. She explained that many students are sitting at their kitchen tables, with little if any space dedicated to their online classes, while many schools remain due to the novel coronavirus,.
“I kind of figured that space for yourself and your own desk is something that will help [students] in a positive way,” Minor said. “And it also helps parents because it gets the kids out a little bit and allows [parents] to have their own space [as well].”
Minor started making desks for students in the community after realizing how inexpensive and easy it was to make one for her youngest son Chase Simmons, 8, for online classes in the spring. While some students who attend Gwinnett County Public Schools have returned to physical classrooms, as her two sons have, she said many are continuing to learn in a virtual format.
Once she made the first desk, she posted a flyer via social media to determine if any other families in the community would be interested. Now, it’s become her family’s project. Chase helps with painting the desks while her eldest son, Skyler Simmons, 15, helps with the assembling. Her husband Jeremy Simmons also helps with loading the benches when people come to pick them up.
Minor said she has always worked with her hands. When she lived in Oregon, she worked in the computer industry but grew tired of sitting behind a desk all day. In an effort to find an alternative, she attended classes at a trade school for women.
She soon began working for Habitat for Humanity, a nonprofit organization that builds houses for those in need. She became a carpenter, framer and housebuilder, she relayed.
However, now she builds desks in between her morning and afternoon school bus routes. She became a school bus driver two years ago after initially working for a roofing company after moving to Georgia in 2016.
Related: Update: Georgia School District Buses Roll Again on Food Delivery Missions
Related: Georgia Superintendent Cites Positive Impact School Bus Transportation Makes on Students
Related: Georgia Student Transporter Places Her Passion in Family, Student Safety
Related: Maine School District Delays School Due to Positive COVID-19 Case
Related: What Works for One During COVID-19 Startup May Not Work for Another
Minor said she’s made close to 30 desks so far but would like to make at least 100 this year, depending on demand. She explained that because she cuts all the wood needed for several desks at one time, assembling the pieces only takes about 20 minutes. She said she and her sons can construct about 15 to 20 desks a week.
Minor also only charges customers for the building materials and occasional tool maintenance, such as purchasing a new saw blade, while she and her sons donate their time. If a family can’t afford the desk, others in the community can donate money through her online website, justaminorproject.com. She also recently posted the desk blueprints online, so people in other areas of the world can also pitch in.
She said one person her from Washington state has already contacted her to help make desks for children in his area. “So, we’re going be able to expand it to the point where we’re helping multiple people,” Minor said enthusiastically.