When Angela Kinnard Lecomte drives her truck for Auburndale, Florida-based CCC Transportation, she does more than just haul clothes, furniture and other household items packed away in PODS containers from one part of the country to another. She also serves as mentor and teacher for a class of fourth-graders at the Healthy Learning Academy in Newberry, Florida, providing them a good look at the world outside their school and community.
As a volunteer with Trucker Buddy International (TBI), the truckload carrier driver for the last five years has served as a kind of trucking industry ambassador and instructor for students in Amber Matts’ fourth-grade class at the Newberry, Florida, school. Trucker Buddy International, which began in 1992, matches volunteer professional truck drivers like Angela with students across the United States through pen pal relationships administered and supervised through teachers.
The volunteer drivers agree to stay in touch with the students throughout the school year, writing emails and letters, and sending them photos from the road. Teachers often incorporate the photos and correspondence as part of their students’ lessons. They learn geography and history as they track the movement of the drivers, research the areas in which the drivers travel, and practice their communication skills when writing letters to them.
“We’ve found that students learn a great deal from the Trucker Buddy pen pal experience,” said Alan Welborn, TBI executive director. “They learn about the importance of truck drivers and how they deliver many of the things students and their families buy at the stores. They develop a respect for the work of truck drivers.”
Throughout the year, Trucker Buddy International accepts award nominations for outstanding drivers and teachers. Each year, the organization chooses the most outstanding teacher and driver from among all of the nominees and awards them at the Mid- America Trucking Show in Louisville, Kentucky. In her nomination for an outstanding driver award for Angela, Ms. Matts said she has had the “pleasure of sharing my fourth graders” with the CCC Transportation driver.
“I say ‘share’ because (Angela) teaches them as much as I do,” she wrote. “Angela Lecomte has been my Trucker Buddy for four years and I refuse to give her up each year. Angela has gone out of her way not only to teach, but also befriend my students through me. She sends us informational post cards from each state she visits. She also sends us food items to try that are local to the places she visits. Most of my students have never left our state, so Angela is opening up a whole new world for them.”
Last year, Angela shared photos from her travels including this photo taken near Vail, Colorado, in May :
And this one along the Columbia River Gorge in Oregon – in August:
Ms. Mattes says Angela last year sent her students an atlas, which they can use to help Angela plan her routes as she moves PODS Moving and Storage containers across the United States.
“I have found that with Angela’s involvement, the learning possibilities for my students are endless,” she says. “I could literally write an entire book about how fortunate I was to be given Angela as a Trucker Buddy.”
NOTE – Trucker Buddy International is looking for fleets willing to allow the organization to recruit drivers as volunteers. TBI can send driver recruitment cards to fleets, which can be shared with drivers. TBI also gladly accepts donations to help administer the program. For more details about TBI and how to help, visit the TBI web site at http://www.truckerbuddy.org/index.php/faqs On the web site, drivers can view teachers and classes looking for trucker buddies and choose from among them. Drivers can also find promotional brochures to share with educators at their local schools. The brochures offer educators instructions on how to set up the program.