MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – As the school year approaches, there’s a major need that has yet to be filled: Schools around the state are searching for bus drivers.

Before a student gets to their teachers each day, there’s another adult who ushers them toward education – a bus driver.

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Jenifer Doyle used to drive buses. Now, she recruits new drivers.

“You are that first smile that they see when they get on the bus. And at the end of the day, you are that high five, how did things go, so making a connection with kids – it makes a difference in their lives,” Doyle said.

Her company, First Student, staffs drivers around the state. She says they are short in every single area.

“I just want people to know it’s a lot easier than you think it is. I can parallel park a bus better than I can parallel park a car, and that’s all thanks to the training that I received,” Doyle said.

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She says applicants can count on a minimum salary of $18 an hour and a $3,000 signing bonus. They hire drivers who are college-aged through retirement, and drivers can bring their kids with them on routes.

“I wanted to be a bus driver so I can save on daycare cost and so I could try and be a light in somebody’s life,” said new recruit Kyla Woodroffe, of Coon Rapids.

“I like transporting kids and I like knowing the safety of the future I have something to do with, and I think my family will be proud of me,” added Leeandrew Carter, of White Bear Lake.

“I enjoy children and I want to make the world a better place and kids, and happier kids make the world a better place,” Pamela Dronen said.

They are not just looking for people to drive during weekdays. They also need charter bus drivers on weeknights.

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Anyone interested in being a bus driver should visit First Student’s website.

Susan-Elizabeth Littlefield