Thomas Built awards winners of annual Children’s Choice essay contest

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Thomas Built Buses, a manufacturer of school buses, has announced the winners of its fifth annual “Children’s Choice School Bus Driver of the Year” essay contest. The contest, which began in 2006, was created to recognize those drivers who are making a difference in the lives of their young passengers. Roughly 900 essays were submitted from students around North America who shared stories of overwhelming compassion, extraordinary measures that keep smiles firmly planted, and even affected lives in the face of danger.

This year’s driver of the year is Lester LeMasters, from Monongalia County Schools in Morgantown, W.V., whose simple yet thoughtful initiative to switch the order of two bus stops made a significant impact in the life of one of his passengers, a second grader named Chancellor. In the winning essay, Chancellor describes how LeMasters impacted his life by intervening in an ongoing bullying issue that was conflicting Chancellor on a daily basis. LeMasters’ actions not only reinstated Chancellor’s sense of security, but also created a lasting bond between driver and student.

“The essay contest provides a platform for us to shine a light on some of the heartwarming stories that we don’t recognize in our industry often enough,” says Kelley Platt, president and chief executive officer of Thomas Built Buses. “We have been fortunate to watch the number of essays grow over the last five years, which tells us that there are many incredible drivers out there.”

The essays were judged by representatives from Thomas Built Buses, School Bus Fleet magazine, School Transportation News magazine and the National Association for Pupil Transportation. LeMasters and Chancellor will attend NAPT’s annual summit in Portland, Ore., for recognition in person by executives from Thomas Built Buses and its parent company, Daimler Trucks North America, during the conference and tradeshow. Keynote sessions on bullying and safety are scheduled, and Thomas Built Buses is including trip expenses for the winners as part of their contest prize package to assist in bringing this issue to the forefront of the industry.

Other prizes include a laptop computer and educational savings bond for Chancellor and a $1,000 Visa gift card for LeMasters. Both will receive a custom Thomas Built Buses jacket and a school bus lunchbox. This year’s contest also recognizes two runners-up and an honorable mention: Leslie Andrews, nominated by Samantha from Hampstead, N.C.; Pat Ferguson, nominated by Sarah from Crown Point, Ind.; and Timothy Driggers, nominated by Shivani from Tampa, Fla. All finalists also receive a jacket and lunch box from Thomas Built for placing in the contest. The winning essays are available for viewing on Thomas Built’s website.