Most kids like to sit in the back of the bus—especially the “cool” kids. But that’s not the case on at least one WCS bus, where the kids pile into the front first—and you’ll never guess why.
They love talking to Mardelle Menzie, the bus driver. “Apparently, I have a personality that makes me very approachable,” she said. “Kids want my ‘mom’ standpoint, others want advice from a wiser adult friend. After 11 years, I hear stories from parents or graduated students of the impact I had on them.”
One high school boy commented to her, “Have you ever thought about being a preacher or a counselor? Everyday you’re sharing some story or preaching some message.” Bus drivers have a big opportunity to inspire the students on their daily routes—and Mardelle (Marty as the kids call her) isn’t the only one taking advantage of this platform to enrich student’s lives.
The Heart of the Matter
Bernie Waikel has been driving buses for 26 years. She has a big heart for the kids who sit on her bus each day—especially the troubled ones. “Bullies have feelings, too. Usually there is a reason they are acting out or trying to get attention. I do my best to provide them with a loving atmosphere, and will often pull troubled kids aside to find the root of the problem.”
Bernie’s empathy for those with a chip on their shoulder stems from her own experiences with a son who is in prison. “I feel I know how to relate to these kids, knowing what my son went through as he struggled with drug abuse. I want these kids to know they are safe and cared for on my bus,” she said.
Bus drivers like Bernie and Mardelle get the opportunity to watch the kids grow up. And often, they get to know the kids, and siblings, over several years.
Equipped for Everything
Safety is the main focus for all WCS drivers. As a result, being a bus driver requires intensive training. Drivers are required to pass an 80-point interior and exterior inspection of the bus, and tests on 4-point air braking, skills, straight-line backing, alley parking, parallel parking, simulated bus stops, and driving.
They also must take an average of 5 weeks of training, attend a 3-day state safety school, become CPR and First Aid certified, take a Commercial Driver’s License physical, and attend mandatory safety meetings twice per year.
To bus drivers like Mardelle and Bernie, the kids are worth it. As Mardelle says, “The kids are awesome, hilarious, nerve wracking, frustrating, challenging, and rewarding. Only because of the kids do I continue to do this job after my kids have grown up. When the day comes for me to move on, it will be the hardest day of my life.”
Bernie adds, “I love these kids and I can’t imagine doing anything else.”