As a single mother who worked three jobs while her children were growing up, Linda Bowar dreamed of retirement one day, but all of that changed the first time she got behind the wheel of a school bus. “I found my passion and my purpose,” says Linda. “I absolutely love what I do, and I have no plans to give it up any time soon.”
Six years ago, Linda went from working for Rochester Public Schools in Minnesota to driving for the district. She was an assistant school secretary before joining our team in 2010. “I’ve never regretted it,” shares Linda. “I thought about becoming a bus driver for a long time. My sister has been doing it for more than 20 years, so I guess it runs in the family.” Now a grandmother with a husband who is retired, Linda finds driving for First Student a “perfect fit” for where she is in her life right now.
Love for the Kids
Because Linda worked for a school, she knew many students and families in the district. “They were quite surprised when the bus pulled up on the first day of school, and I was the one driving it,” remembers Linda. She has known some of the children on her route since they were in kindergarten. Linda enjoys the daily interactions she has with her students on their way to and from school. “It’s really quite simple,” says Linda. “It’s my love for the kids that drives me.”
Moved to Act
Linda knows how her actions can make a real difference in the lives the students she serves. On a December morning in 2015, the wind chill in Rochester was -23°F. Linda noticed that a boy on her route was not wearing a coat. When Linda asked him why he was not dressed appropriately for the weather, the student said his family could not afford a coat. “I was heartbroken,” says Linda. “I felt that this should not be happening, and I was moved to act.” Linda promised the student that she would get him a new coat, hat, scarf and gloves by the end of the day. She shared the student’s story with a manager at a local department store. To her surprise, he told her that the store would donate the clothing. Linda gave the boy the items that afternoon, and she was overwhelmed by his reaction of gratitude.
It Takes a Team
Linda was inspired to help other students in the community. She approached Location Manager Jon Goetz about organizing a coat drive. “He was incredibly supportive,” says Linda. “Jon gave me the ball, and I ran with it.” Linda contacted numerous retailers in Rochester and received hundreds of donations of winter weather items. She called the effort “Operation Cold Kidz.” Linda’s colleagues offered to help distribute the coats at the location on a Saturday morning. “The smiles on the faces of all of the children who received these new items warmed all of our hearts,” says Linda. She organized another coat drive last October. Some of the high school students on her route even collected money to buy coats and volunteered to help the location on distribution day. Linda plans to make “Operation Cold Kidz” an annual event.
Linda truly reflects our vision and values in action. She recently received an inaugural Be First Award from the company for her work in keeping communities prospering. Linda has also earned top honors from the National School Transportation Association. In 2015, she received an Outstanding Driver Service Award, which celebrates drivers who serve as role models. Linda shares, “I never expected the recognition, but it does motivate me to do more.” From her initial concern for one student, grew an entire initiative that has kept hundreds of students in the Rochester community warm for the past two winters. Linda showed compassion by responding to a simple need in a meaningful and impactful way. She is making a difference beyond the school day and genuinely represents what it means to be a caring member of the community.