The stories of bus drivers and monitors going above and beyond for their students aren't rare - but they are special. While the actions are oftentimes small, the impact is great. School bus drivers and monitors make a difference every day, but it’s during the holidays when they can really see the impact they make on “their kids.”
“Giving back . . . it’s a good thing for your heart, being able to do for others,” says Tonya Gilbert, a First Student bus monitor serving Cincinnati Public Schools (CPS). Gilbert knows what her students need in the winter time – safety, comfort, and protection from the cold. Collaborating with CPS for a Winter Coat Drive, First Student collected new or gently used coats that were later distributed among five Cincinnati Public schools. Senior Location Manager Michael Jones says of his employees, “I’m proud of the way our people stepped up. The district gave us a list of the schools where the needs were the greatest – and the sizes needed. We took care of all the sizes that were needed and also provided a couple of bags of clothing for them. It felt good knowing those kids were going to have a nice warm coat to wear.”
As a grandmother, Gilbert knew her home life could also benefit the children she sees every day at work. She took the gently used, outgrown coats of her grandchildren, washed them and gave the coats new life for a Cincinnati child, “The coats went to kids we know. Just to be able to see a smile on their faces, it’s heartwarming. They don’t have to suffer, they can stay warm.”
For Gilbert, she recognizes the coats mean more than just physical warmth for her students. “A lot of them don’t have parents, so donating a few coats keeps them warm and safe . . . and prevents them from being bullied for not having a coat,” she adds.
The holiday cheer didn’t stop at providing coats for the children. Jones says, “I also gave adult coats. If an adult is trying to make sure a child is clothed before they are, that often means they don’t have a coat. We hope parents can also use the coats to wait safely and warmly with their kids at the bus stop.”
Cincinnati Public Schools Superintendent Mary Ronan says of the Coat Drive, “This is another example of the strong partnership between CPS and First Student… It is good to know that our students will feel not only the warmth of winter coat, but the warmth that comes in knowing that there are so many people in the community that care about them.”
By the end of the two-week Winter Coat Drive, nearly 150 children benefited. Jones says district administrators were overwhelmed by the employees’ generosity, “The different schools we collected for were so thankful. I was very proud to be there to represent the First Student employees who are out working and making us a better company. I think people have bigger hearts than they’re given credit for sometimes.”
The Winter Coat Drive in Cincinnati is not the only way our First Student drivers gave back during the holiday season. Team members across North America donated time, money and possessions so that ‘their kids’ could have enough during the holidays. Leading up to Thanksgiving, our drivers at locations throughout Central Connecticut held their annual Soup Can Collection Campaign. For drivers, at the heart of this effort was the knowledge that in a lot of their local communities, a can of soup is a full meal for someone. The Central Connecticut locations surpassed their goal by 441 cans and collected nearly 3,750 cans of soup for their communities.