Scholarships open up a 'world of knowledge'
"Legacy" is a word that has been bandied about quite a bit of late.
Sure, high profile individuals like U.S. President Barack Obama seek to leave a legacy - consider his extensive campaigning when pushing new legislation. Filmmakers hope to create a lasting impression with their choice of subject matter (think documentarians Al Gore and Michael Moore). And yes, even non-famous folks like you and me consider leaving a legacy - especially at year's end when our thoughts turn inward to analyze how well our projections matched outcomes.
More important than outcomes, however, is why the analysis matters. If, at the end of the day, it all comes down to that Peggy Lee song "Is That All There Is?" then what's the point? I believe the point is this: We'd all like to make a difference that lingers.
How do we go about it? Certainly, legacy-building can be approached from a variety of angles. Having children, immersing oneself in a vocation or an avocation, contributing to a church group, dedicating time or financial support to a civic organization, an environmental mission, pursuing a hobby in the arts - these are all potential legacy-building activities.
For those who focus their legacy-building efforts solely in their chosen profession, certain occupations are easier than others, by virtue of their inherent attraction. For example, the higher wages (or purpose) in fields like medicine and law; the status of a political appointment; or the allure of potential fame and wealth in the entertainment industry - they guarantee that (1) medical and law degrees will continue to be conferred, (2) a senator's offspring will tend to pursue a political science curriculum or internship, and (3) would-be actors will hole up in New York or Los Angeles in the hopes of being "discovered." In short, recruitment is not an overwhelming concern for these occupations.
Glamour, status and wealth, however, are not characteristics that we've come to associate with the pupil transportation industry. Yet providing students with transportation to school is as necessary an endeavor as the education itself, and as such, the field should be nurtured like the children that pupil transportation providers transport.
The idea that school bus drivers in particular need to be recruited and mentored has taken root recently to address a troublesome demographic reality: fewer and fewer young people are choosing "school bus driver" as a career. Adding to that, older drivers are retiring in greater numbers, as many drivers age out. As older folks leave and younger people seek employment elsewhere, there will be many vacancies to fill. This trend is borne out statistically. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in the years between 2008 and 2018, there will be an 18.5-percent increase in the availability of school bus driver jobs (see the U.S. Department of Labor's National Employment Matrix website). It appears, then, that we have our work cut out for us.
To help address this trend, some notable individuals and organizations in the school bus industry have decided to leave their own legacies by providing scholarships to pupil transportation professionals that defray the costs of attendance to conferences, thus enabling opportunities where they might not otherwise exist. In order to entice recruits and edify workers currently in the field, efforts to maintain high professional standards and increase credibility and respectability must continue to be made through education. As a consequence of these generous scholarships, more than a dozen individuals attended the NAPT Summit in Portland, Ore., last year. Several attendees shared their thoughts and experiences about the positive impact these scholarships have made.
Pat Jensen, a transportation director from Crescent, Calif., stated, "I took much information back to my district that will benefit not only the way we conduct business, but also the way I personally direct my operation. ... I am not able to network or attend educational workshops [without financial support]."
Maryland state director Leon Langley said the scholarship acted as the persuader by which his supervisor allowed him to attend. He commented, "Any moment when I [have] the opportunity to talk with colleagues from across the nation, sharing and comparing experiences, philosophies and practical solutions to common problems, is priceless."
Networking is one of the key attributes that characterizes the conference. This is continually validated by many attendees who assert that interaction with colleagues is extremely rewarding. Donna Haney from Santa Fe, Texas, agrees. "I met some incredible people. It was great to hear how other states handle certain issues within transportation," Haney said.
Dallas Rackow, a five-year transportation director from Freeport, Ill., commented, "Having information that is tailored to what I do every day is very beneficial, and hearing the information from professionals who understand the job is invaluable."
Opportunities to acquire conference content derived from workshops, professional development classes and learning about new technologies at the trade show can also influence delegates on site and continue once they return home.
Tracie Chandler of Lynnwood, Wash., asserts, "I was able to gather the information needed as we make some transitions in our facility with the technology that we are using."
Echoing a similar sentiment, Rackow adds, "The workshop on performance metrics in the shop was the most valuable to me. It truly made my trip. I am now for the first time actually going to be able to evaluate my [staff] with data-supported information."
Another scholarship recipient billed the trade show as "excellent" and affirmed that it afforded her a lot of information.
The gift of attendance was a life-saver for longtime NAPT member and 30-year pupil transportation veteran Pat Waites, who had this to say: "I have been to the NAPT conference every year since 1990. I would not have been able to attend the Summit [this year] if I had to pay ... out of my own pocket."
On the other end of the spectrum, newcomer Nancy Kessler from Houston disclosed, "This was my first NAPT conference. I can't thank the people enough like Zonar and Peter and Linda Lawrence to give these scholarships to allow people like myself to be able to attend by defraying some of the cost. I encourage any company to pitch in at least enough for one scholarship and hope this will enable someone else to experience this opportunity. I brought back to my district a 'world of knowledge' from the classes I took and will use them in my everyday practice."
Whenever you hear words like "priceless," "invaluable" and "excellent," you know you've made an impact. Thank you to Peter and Linda Lawrence and the team at Zonar for this potentially legacy-building opportunity. With their help and the help of others like them, we hope to expand, exponentially, opportunities for more people to bring a world of knowledge back to their organizations and, as a result, to help build perpetuity and legacy into the field of pupil transportation. Together, we can make a difference that lasts.
If you are interested in creating a scholarship, please contact NAPT headquarters at (800) 989-6278.
Lynn Martin is NAPT's marketing and communications specialist.