situation as it was needed. All students were transported to another bus, and arrived at school only a few minutes late. The incident, he stressed, was a testimony of how safe school buses are built. While the bus was

destroyed, there were no injuries. “All students were on the bus the next morning [after the incident]. … They apparently felt safe,”

Kennedy said. “The first three students on the bus hand-made me a card. On the front, they had drawn a bus and on the inside they had written: ‘Thank you for keeping everyone safe. You are a wonderful bus driver. We love you.’ … That really made my day, and I felt so much better.” Kennedy said he loves being around the students, as he enjoys watching them grow and mature

from year-to-year. He has had generations of students on his bus, and he looks forward to coming to work every morning.

“The word hero, to me, means law enforcement, firefighters, Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines. They’re the real heroes. I don’t consider myself a hero at all. I’m just a humble, respectful, outgoing, caring, and loving bus driver who was there for my buddy, Milton.”

School bus driver Jose Betancourt (left) with student Milton Gomez (right).

Jose Betancourt has been a school bus driver for Sanger Unified School District near Fresno, California, for the past nine years. He loves

talking to the students about their goals and aspirations. Betancourt said he encourages them to live up to their full potential. One of the rules on Betancourt’s bus is that no one can board without smiling. He also teaches his students about respect and the proper way to greet someone.

“I love that I can give them high fives every single day. I know that if my students get off of my bus in a great mood, it will be a productive day for him or her,” Betancourt said. On the first day of the current school year, one of his students, Milton Gomez, collapsed at his bus

stop and started to convulse as Betancourt was approaching in the bus. Betancourt said he imme- diately called dispatch to inform them of the situation. Betancourt has received extensive training throughout the years on emergency situations and is CPR certified. When Milton stopped breathing, Betancourt recounted shouting his name and clap- ping, in an effort to bring the boy back to consciousness. As a bilingual speaker, Betancourt was able to communicate with the boy’s Hispanic parents to

provide first responders with the list of the medications the boy was taking. Betancourt said he was able to keep Milton’s parents calm, as well as himself. “Being in those meetings and training really helped me a lot,” Betancourt acknowledged. “I’m an

emotional guy, so I had to stay strong. I followed all instructions and things that I was taught, as if they just came natural to me.”

“I consider Riley the true hero. She finds the strength to persevere and endure, in spite of overwhelming obstacles.”

School bus driver Kathleen Hanley said it was onboard teamwork that saved the life of Riley, an

8-year-old girl who has a debilitating disease. Riley uses a motorized wheelchair with a ventilator and tracheostomy. She has minimal use of her arms, hands and legs. On Oct. 23, Hanley, who has been driving for Capistrano Unified School District in Southern Cal-

46 School Transportation News • JANUARY 2020

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