Image: Canva/Makenzi Prather

Image: Canva/Makenzi Prather

See all our School Bus Fleet Trailblazers of 2023 in this article.

Makenzi Prather

Age: 29

Works for: First Light Safety Products

Role: Regional Account Executive

Describe a day in your professional life.

Prather: I'm responsible for the Midwest so every day is a little different! Most of the time, I'm traveling to various states to meet with schools, contractors and bus dealerships. Our product is all about visibility so it's always my goal to get in front of as many districts as possible. I can normally see anywhere between four to six schools a day during a travel week. On my home weeks, I'm following up with existing customers while reaching out to other districts who are interested in our new technology. I've never met a stranger and love to travel so to be able to combine what I love while making a such a large impact on student safety has been more rewarding than I ever imagined. First Light is still a relatively newer company on the market. It's a fast-growing company and a great team to work with alongside. To know that I've been a big part of our team's success as young professional new to the industry has been indescribably special.

What brought you to the student transportation industry?

Prather: I remember reading about a fatal accident between a student crossing the street and an oncoming car that did not even pause for the deployed stop arm. I was stunned. Being from Indiana, this was the second major fatality of a stop-arm violation within three years. I couldn't believe what was happening so close to home, and I thought there has to be a way to prevent it. That's when I came across First Light's website, and it seemed serendipitous they would have an opening while I was looking to make a move to a more fulfilling career. While prepping for my interview, I couldn't help but be shocked by the statistics and knew I was making the right move, even without any prior industry experience. I haven't looked back since..

What’s something critical that you’ve learned during your time in the student transportation industry?

Prather: It's very overlooked just how vital of an industry it is and how much work goes into transportation as a whole. Until I was working alongside bus drivers, transportation directors, mechanics, etc. I was clueless to how many moving pieces go into just the every day operations. Yet even on their worst days, I am in awe of their pride in what they do. It truly takes a village when it comes to transporting precious cargo.

What’s your advice for someone considering a career in this industry?

Prather: Don't be afraid to jump right in! I was nervous to get started in a new industry but it was a very easy transition. Everyone is so patient and eager to share their knowledge with others. I have yet to meet someone who hasn't be willing to help if I ask them. Every day is different, so you'll never be bored. I can speak from experience: the rewards far outweigh the risk of making the leap.

About the author
Wes Platt

Wes Platt

Executive Editor

Wes Platt joined Bobit in 2021 as executive editor of School Bus Fleet Magazine. He writes and edits content about student transportation, school bus manufacturers and equipment, legislative issues, maintenance, fleet contracting, and school transportation technology - from classic yellow diesel buses to the latest EPA-funded electric, propane, and CNG vehicles.

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