These days more than ever, we need to be reminded of all the good people, people who are giving of themselves to do good for others. They aren’t hard to find … you sometimes just have to sift through all the noise to find these people quietly going about the business of … being good people. Today, I would like you to meet a school bus driver for Lake Highlands Elementary school in Dallas, Texas. His name is Curtis Jenkins and his story is heartwarming … Gronda, get your tissues.Up until eight years ago, Curtis owned his own plumbing and electrical company. Then, his mother became ill and he needed greater flexibility in order to take her to and from appointments, so he sold his business and took a job with the Richardson Independent School District (RISD) driving a school bus. And it was there he found his passion in life … the kids.
Jenkins makes the trip to and from school fun! He has created a community inside bus No. 1693. Students apply for their ‘jobs’ and earn “bus bucks” that Jenkins designed himself. Children who don’t work receive a weekly stipend ($5 bus bucks), but they’re taxed $2. Only recently, he added another wrinkle … each working child contributes one of their bus bucks to help those who aren’t working. At the end of the week, bus bucks can be redeemed for needed school supplies (purchased by Curtis). Among the ‘jobs’ are sheriff, police officer, banker, administrative assistant, and translator.
Students are fined when they break Jenkins’ rules, which are centered around respect and compassion.
“I’m teaching love. If you don’t love, it might cost you some things.”
It’s no classroom, but Jenkins plans daily lessons that he worries are otherwise neglected. He shows students how to fly paper airplanes and tie a tie, among other useful life skills.
“I want to put imagination back in children without desensitizing them.”
Students campaigned for bus president in March and were tasked with creating a budget to add more jobs. But multiplication is tricky. So is public speaking, which is why one fifth-grader dropped out of the race. A second-grader, trying to offer him words of encouragement, said …
“Look, all you need to say is some fancy words, and something that’s going to make everyone excited or something. Then they’re going to choose you. It’s not that hard.” (I can’t imagine where the kid learned that lesson?)
But Curtis Jenkins’ acts of kindness go much further than that. He makes each child on his bus a special card on their birthdays, and he and his wife, Shaneqia, purchase turkeys for some of the kids’ families at Thanksgiving. At Easter, he and Shaneqia put together special Easter bags for the kids. It’s the little things that mean so much.
Every morning when he arrives at school with his young charges, he gives a brief talk from the front of the bus with advice like, “Walk with a purpose until you walk into your purpose. Everybody deserves a chance. No matter the odds, don’t ever count anyone out — including yourself.” The kids love him. One parent reported recently that her child is excited to get up and come to school because he knows Jenkins will be there to greet him each morning at the bus stop. Another child said …
“My mom got divorced when I was only 4. He’s the father that I always wanted. In some ways, I wish my dad could have been like that.”
Until last December, Curtis had gone quietly about the business of being a bus driver, mentor, helper, with few outside the school noticing. That all changed the week of Christmas, however, when he and Shaneqia decided not to buy Christmas gifts for each other, but instead to spend the money on gifts for the children.
In the weeks leading up to Christmas, he got the kids talking about what they hoped to get for Christmas, and Curtis made mental notes. In the end, he and Shaneqia ended up also spending the money they had put back for a second honeymoon … they felt this was more important. One of his fellow bus drivers and a parent also chipped in once they discovered what he was doing.
A teacher took a picture of Curtis standing before his gift-laden bus and the school posted it on Facebook as a way to thank Curtis for going above and beyond the call of duty. The photo and accompanying story went viral. The post was be shared 13,500 times and his story ran across media outlets in 20 countries, all within 48 hours! HuffPost and even Breitbart picked up the story, as did CBS and NBC.
Jenkins wasn’t prepared for the nonprofits who claimed they donated to him, even though they hadn’t. A company is turning a profit by sending thank you cards to him on behalf of their customers. His daughter wasn’t ready for the 2,000 Instagram followers who flooded her inbox in search of her dad’s contact information. Jenkins didn’t expect to buy a P.O. box or hire a lawyer to establish a nonprofit.
But that is what, after giving it much thought, he did.
“If I have a platform now, why not use it?”
Jenkins’ nonprofit, Magnifying Caring and Change, is still in the development stages, but will be an extension of what he does for the students on his bus. He partnered with Cozy Coats for Kids to buy jackets for students. His hope is that one day he’ll have a community center for them after school.
“Just take the time to look at yourselves and think, if you were in another position than what you are in right now, how do you want somebody to treat you. I’m not rich at all. But I plan to one day be a blessing to people in need. We need these kids to know they have potential — they are like little apprentices. One day they will be the leaders when we aren’t around.”
Wise words from a wise, kind, and compassionate man. Two thumbs up to Mr. Curtis Jenkins!