Friday, April 1, 2016

Trucker Buddy making impact in classrooms

Tammy Egnew, a fifth-grade teacher at Salem Elementary in Russell Springs, Ky., didn't know anything about the Trucker Buddy program when she was first approached about using it in her classroom.

It's safe to say she has been pleasantly surprised by the results since truck driver Hale Swords started visiting her class.

Swords' presence has helped students with their letter writing skills, as well as their education in social studies.

However, Egnew said his ability to be a role model may be the biggest factor.

"It makes me want to cry, because I have so many kids who live with foster parents and nobody to look up to. They look up to Mr. Hale. They look forward to coming to school so that they can hear from Mr. Hale. They know they're going to get an email from him, and they know he cares about them. They don't always have that at home. He's really their trucker buddy. As I teach, I also love it because they're learning without even knowing they're learning."

Egnew and Swords were honored as Trucker Buddy discussed the progress the program has made during a news conference on Friday at the Mid-America Trucking Show in Louisville, Ky.

Trucker Buddy International is a nonprofit program started in 1992, which is dedicated to mentoring schoolchildren via a pen pal relationships between background-checked professional truck drivers and children in kindergarten through eighth grade, as well as special needs classes, Girls and Boys Club, and Scouting events.

Meritor has combined efforts with Trucker Buddy to start a pilot program that links truckers who deliver materials to its York, S.C., plant with a local school to drive a better understanding of the industry and the people who haul goods and materials across the country. They are testing the program by pairing three truckers with classrooms at Cotton Belt Elementary School in York. The truckers have become pen pals with the three classrooms.

"The teachers know their classrooms, and each instructor wants something different for their pupils," Trucker Buddy International Executive Director Randy Schwartzenburg said. "Ultimately, when students understand the importance of trucking, they may be more responsible when they become drivers who share the road with truckers. And they'll respect the important role trucking plays every day for each of us."

Trucker Buddy and PeopleNet Communications have also teamed to provide $500 classroom supply grants to 19 schools, including 18 in the United States and one in Uganda. The program increased its number of grants as it provided 12 last year.

"Trucker Buddy, with the funding from PeopleNet is thrilled to offer grants to the deserving schools," Schwartzenburg said. "Many teachers and drivers donate not only their time, but their own funds to help their classrooms and this is a great opportunity to help our community."