Jason Kennedy has been driving a big yellow school bus for 13 years now, every morning and every afternoon, getting our children to and from school safely and on time.
Kennedy has driven for every grade level over the years and currently drives bus 51 for Union Pines High School.
When asked why he started driving a bus, he said, “I became a bus driver out of necessity, and I felt like it’s where God led me. Also, I like driving big vehicles. A little later, I fell in love with driving kids because I felt like I was doing something important.”
Nothing is more important than keeping children safe, and Kennedy has the skills to do just that.
The very best bus drivers in the state squared off for top honors at the North Carolina Bus “Roadeo” which was held at the end of June.
Getting to the state championship is not an easy feat. Kennedy had to beat out other competitors in the regionals in order to make it to the state level.
Kennedy placed 4th in the roadeo which included written tests and hands on driving competion.
“The state competition is very involved,” said Kennedy.
The bus drivers had to parallel park big yellow tanks between barriers, back the buses into an alley of cones without skimming any of them. Kennedy said, “We drove the bus through a diminishing alley without hitting the flags that end up with about 2 inches of clearance on each side.
“We drove the back tires of the bus through tennis balls on the ground with 2 inches of clearance for the tires, and that test is extremely tough to do,” added Kennedy. “The judges are tough as well.”
You can’t drive a school bus without getting close to the students and having a favorite memory.
It was at the end of Kennedy’s third school year when he noticed one of his students crying outside of the bus. When Kennedy inquired as to why the girl was crying, she conveyed she was upset because he wasn’t going to be her bus driver anymore, for she was graduating middle school and moving up to high school.
“It made me feel good to know that I had touched someone’s life that much; moments like that make driving worth it,” said Kennedy.
Kennedy has advice to anyone thinking about becoming a school bus driver.
“Don’t take it lightly and think of the children as your children. Also, remember that you are the first person they see in the morning and the last person they see in evening so make a great impression. Above all, enjoy what you do because you are important and necessary.”
As far as the bus roadeo, Kennedy said he will be back next year to win it.
Feature photo credit/Christy Kennedy