School Bus Driver Inspired By Students Gets College Degree During Covid-19

Not only does life sometimes throw us down unexpected paths, but the inspiration to pursue those paths can come from the strangest of places.

Through his work and those he helped, one school bus driver was encouraged to follow his dreams and set an example for those around him in the process.

When growing up in a family business, it can be kind of hard to imagine yourself pursuing other paths.

Unsplash | Harrison Kugler

This rang true for Clayton Ward, whose family owned a school bus company in Tennessee. He did try to attend college once before, over 10 years ago, but dropped out after a few semesters. So he moved to Massachusetts and continued the family trend of being a school bus driver.

He always held that underlying wish to return to school one day, though.

Flickr | allanwenchung

Until one day, as he was speaking to some of his high school students about a passion of his, history, one of them chimed in and said they'd love to have him as a teacher.

It was a quick decision after that, and soon he was enrolled in MassBay Community College with the goal of becoming a teacher.

He didn't stop driving to go to school though.

Unsplash | Christian Wiediger

No, he still drove full-time while pursuing his studies. A tight schedule for sure, but one that he managed so he could still spend time with his students.

In fact, he found a new connection with his students, especially his high school ones.

Unsplash | Element5 Digital

When the kids learned he was back in school, they began talking to him about it. "It came up in conversation, especially some of the older ones who are starting to look at colleges," he said. "[...] Once they realized that I was going to school, they started asking questions about what it was like and stuff like that."

Then COVID-19 struck, which was both a blessing and a curse.

Unsplash | Bethany Legg

It meant an end to his school bus driving as kids were pulled from schools in favor of online classes, but it meant he could focus even more on his own classes. He also said school provided him with some structure now that he wasn't working.

In the end, it all paid off.


Ward earned a spot on the Dean's list every single semester and was also inducted into the Phi Theta Kappa National Honor Society.

"I expected to do well, but I didn't imagine doing straight As, I didn't imagine being on the Dean's list, getting three or four awards for having one of the best GPAs for the graduating class. It's still kind of all surreal to me," he explained.

This isn't the end of his journey either.


Clayton plans on attending Framingham State University to complete his bachelor's degree, and there was a purpose behind that choice.

"It's right in the area where I would like to teach, because Framingham is a lower-income city. That's where I'm geared to go towards, just because of my experience," he said, "Even with my family and their bus company, a lot of the routes we did were through lower-income housing."

He had one final message for the students who encouraged him, the ones he's still not able to see.

Unsplash | Joseph Chan

"You guys mean so much to me. I thank you for every time we were able to talk. It gave me more of a drive, more ambition to go [to school]."

h/t: CBS News