Students inspire school bus driver to earn his college degree

Clayton Ward (MassBay Community College)

A school bus driver in Massachusetts returned to the classroom and earned his college degree -- and he says he was inspired to do so by the students he drove to school each day.

Clayton Ward had previously attended college, but dropped out after several semesters. His family owned a school bus company in his home state of Tennessee, so upon moving to Massachusetts, he decided to follow in their footsteps by becoming a bus driver for the city of Framingham.

A self-described history buff, he would chat with the students on his bus about their classes.

"I would share lessons that I learned in school and we talked a lot about academics," Ward recalled. "Some of the students would tell me they wanted me to be their teacher."

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He said talking to those students on the bus every day "stuck with me and gave me the motivation to complete a goal I had started years ago."

That goal: to become a high school history teacher.

Ward enrolled at MassBay Community College in May 2019 to earn his associate's degree, intending to then transfer to a four-year institution.

He worked full-time driving the school bus, all while attending classes full-time as well.

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“It wasn’t always easy. I would drive my route in the morning and afternoon, take a class in between shifts, and take night classes and classes online to complete my degree requirements," Ward said. "I would think of those students and all the years I wanted to make this happen, and it helped me focus my energy.”

He earned a spot on the Dean's List every semester and was inducted into the Phi Theta Kappa National Honor Society. In just one year, Ward earned his associate's degree -- with a 4.0 GPA.

In the fall, Ward will transfer to Framingham State University to pursue his bachelor's degree in history, with a minor in secondary education.