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School Bus Drivers Helping with Happy Hearts

School bus drivers across the nation are going above and beyond their call of duty, without thinking twice, in order to help the students they transport in any way possible.

Bob Snyder, going on his fourth year as a school bus driver for North Kansas City School District in Missouri, said he hopes other people are doing similar things to what he is doing. He wants his story to encourage others to do something that they may be on the fence about.

One day last year, Snyder noticed that permission slips were left behind on one of his routes for Clardy Elementary school, located just north of Kansas City. He said it was weird they were left behind and figured it could have been for many different reasons.

The permission slips were to be “filled out and brought back in with your money. And it struck me as odd that these permission slips had been left behind on my bus,” Snyder relayed. “I thought, maybe they don’t really want to go. Maybe they are afraid to ask Mom and Dad. Or maybe they are afraid they aren’t going to get to go because the $7 becomes a problem.”

Snyder took it upon himself to go into the office and pay for the students who couldn’t afford to go. He didn’t want money to become a barrier between the students and anything they wanted to do. He said throughout the year he would occasionally check-in with the office and see if there was anything he could do to further help.

At one of his check-ins with the office, a secretary there had told him that a student wanted to take swim lessons, but their parents couldn’t afford it. Snyder helped pay for that student’s swim lessons and even left extra money for a new swimsuit. But his good deeds didn’t stop there.

“I don’t want the kids to be falling through the cracks or [becoming] collateral damage from the big kids’ decisions: Moms and Dads,” Snyder explained. “They are struggling with stuff, and the kids oftentimes get stuck in the middle of ‘mom is supposed to pay for it,’ ‘no, dads supposed to pay for it,’ and they end up being stretched like a piece of rope in a tug of war.”

Snyder continued, “If I can take [the students] out of that, then that’s great. If I can reduce the pain or the stress in their lives, then I think we are doing the right thing.”

As the current school year commenced, Snyder wanted to continue to help. So, he gave the secretary at Clardy Elementary School an envelope full of money, “scholarship money” as he called it. It was to be used in circumstances when students couldn’t pay.

“All I said on the bottom of it, I said ‘if it gets below a certain threshold, give me a call and I’ll give you more.’ The same deal, I don’t want anybody not going because they couldn’t come up with the money,” Snyder explained. “I didn’t know if was signing up for ten bucks or a thousand dollars, it really didn’t matter. This was important to the kids, and I trust the ladies, that if they were going to use the money, it was going to be because it was needed and because it was useful.”

However, to Snyder’s surprise, the money, which was used for the first time a month and a half into the school year, went to a student to purchase lunch. After the student was given the scholarship money for lunch, he returned several days later with his birthday money to repay it. He didn’t want one of his schoolmates to go without lunch, either.

“Here is this kid, somebody does something nice for him and the kid wants to pay it back. It’s heartbreaking, it’s touching,” Snyder explained.

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During these winter months, Snyder is also carrying a bucket on his school bus full of gloves and hats that he purchases in bulk online, so that no child is cold. He also delivered boxes of the winter gear to the elementary school, so that kids he doesn’t see on his bus every day are accounted for as well.

“The coldest days of winter are going to be taken care of on this bus,” Snyder said.

Following the winter break, Snyder said he is planning a pizza party for the entire Clardy Elementary School because he wants the kids to know that the bus drivers miss them over the break.

“I want the kids to know that the bus drivers miss them and welcome them back,” Snyder explained. “I really get annoyed with the whole ‘Countdown to Christmas Break,’ and all that stuff. The last thing a child needs is another adult saying, ‘I don’t really want to see you for two weeks.’

Snyder continued, “I want them to be feeling like we miss them, and that we are glad to see them when they come back. So, the least I can do is encourage the 15 bus drivers that service the elementary school to make that happen. I think that is another win.”

Meanwhile, in Indiana, school bus driver David Jones is showing his holiday spirit by dressing up for the kids he transports.

Jones, whose dream growing up was to become a school bus driver, received his commercial driver’s license at age 21. He was hired the same day by Franklin Township Community School Corporation, located southeast of Indianapolis, where he has worked ever since.

When he was a kid, he and his grandpa went to a school bus junkyard and found several parts from one of the old buses. Together, he said, they built a school bus simulator that Jones could play with at his own house. It was equipped with a working stop-arm and flashing lights.

Jones said when he was young he loved the vehicles’ bright color and all the noises that are associated with a school bus. He said he never had a mean bus driver and was always excited to go to school for the bus ride there. He wanted to pass along that same spirit.

Jones drives a three-tier route, meaning he has elementary, middle and high school students. He said all of his kids are given nametags, and their birthdays posted on the bus. He includes a quote and an ‘on this day in history’ message.

“We do little activities on my bus. We do Friday dance parties and basically some of the stuff that you would see in a regular classroom,” Jones explained. “A lot of the teachers within the school district call my bus a classroom on wheels.”

This year, Jones’ bus is decorated in theme with the “Magic School Bus,” but he stepped it up a notch for the holiday season. Last week, he was transporting first-grade students on a field trip to watch the “Polar Express” movie. Because Jones said he likes that movie, he surprised the kids and dressed up as the polar express conductor.

“So that was the best day ever,” Jones said. “It was just so magical for all the kids.”

David Jones, a school bus driver for Franklin Township Community School Corporation in Indiana, dressed up recently as the train conductor from the movie “Polar Express,” to transport his students to a showing of the film.

Editor’s Note: Read more stories about the industry’s unsung heroes in the 2020 January issue of School Transportation News.

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