<p>Some of the East Aurora (Ill.) School District 131 drivers were presented with a certificate of appreciation at the ASBC's Love the Bus event. Buster the Bus also made a special appearance. </p>

AURORA, Ill. — The role of the yellow school bus and school bus drivers in helping students succeed was the focus of the American School Bus Council’s (ASBC’s) official launch to its 2019 Love the Bus event.

This year’s event was held at the Fred Rodgers Magnet Academy in the East Aurora (Ill.) School District 131 on Feb. 8, with over 400 students, bus drivers, and guests in attendance, according to a news release from the ASBC.

At the event, the role of the school bus came to life through a multitude of stories. Dr. Jennifer Norrell, superintendent of East Aurora School District 131, opened the 40-minute celebration by noting the positive difference the district’s new school bus service has meant to its students. Before 2018, the school district did not offer school bus service. Norrell said students are now arriving to school on time, rested, and as a result, are performing better.

East Aurora School Board President Annette Johnson, who spearheaded the efforts to start the district’s bus service, discussed the years of struggle to achieve her vision, according to ASBC.

Johnson attributed the decreasing number of students and their families as well as business in the area’s past to the lack of school bus service. Fears that the district could not afford the service, she said, were far from true. In the end, the district found state incentives that helped fund a portion of the bus service, Johnson added, and according to school officials, attendance among middle-school students who were eligible to ride the buses rose by 27%.

A.L. Reeves, director of mentoring from Harford County Public Schools in Baltimore, Maryland, was ASBC’s guest speaker. He shared how bus service was crucial to his own education.

“The day starts and ends with the bus drivers,” he said. “They make your education possible.”

Without the bus drivers who transported him to school each day when he was growing up, he added, he might not have made it to school, and would not have started the education journey that has brought him success. He challenged the students to appreciate the benefit of the bus and he thanked the bus drivers for their service.

During the ceremony, some of the 127 bus drivers in the district were presented with a certificate of appreciation and a gift. Buster the Bus also made a special appearance, giving students safety tips on loading and unloading the bus.

VIDEO: 2019 Love the Bus Kickoff Event

ASBC encourages local school districts and contractors to hold their own Love the Bus events throughout February, and provides downloadable materials to help with Love the Bus events, including certificates, cards, and coloring sheets. This year’s new color sheet, “2019 Stop for Safety” reminds people to stop when children are loading or unloading from the bus.

School bus operations can also share their Love the Bus celebrations on social media, using the tag #LoveTheBus or @WeLoveTheBus on the ASBC Facebook or Twitter pages. Based on the number of likes and how the posts commemorate the meaning of Love the Bus, ASBC will award a $250 first prize, $150 second prize, and $100 third prize. Creators of the top three selected posts will receive Visa gift cards.

Additionally, districts and contractors can submit photos and stories demonstrating their love of the bus or about a driver or school transportation employee who deserves recognition for their efforts in supporting student safety at www.lovethebus.org. ASBC will share stories on its website.

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