A Note on Gratitude from our Programs & Partnerships Manager, John Glasgow:
I often get asked why I returned home and started working for a nonprofit with its heart, mind, and hands set on rural areas. It’s a great question, truth be told. As someone who had the opportunity to attend college in an urban area, study international politics, and then continue studies in another land, the move back home seems perplexing, if not regressive. Many of us from a rural place are raised with the notion that to stay, or return, is to somehow fall short of the mark--that there is no hope or opportunity to be found at home. I also bought into that mindset, even though I’ve always loved my hometown of Monmouth, Illinois.
While this hopeless narrative of rural deficit remains strong, it is outshined by the stories and experiences of people who not only see the true value of small places but who also lead fulfilling lives in support of people and place. So, for my contribution to Rural Schools Collaborative’s Gratitude Series this holiday season, I want to share the story of one inspiring individual at a local school who I’m thankful for: my grandma, Joyce.
She was born, raised, and lived her entire life in our neck of western Illinois. For as long as I can remember, she’s worked to serve others in our region, whether it’s at a nursing home, in our home church, briefly as the president of her village board, or as a bus driver for local school districts. Today, she’s been “driving bus” in area schools for 20 years, and it all stems from a love for children and a desire to care for them. “When I was growing up, I wanted to be a teacher, but going to college wasn’t an option for me because it was too expensive. With the bus driving, that gave me an opportunity to be around kids and still get an opportunity to teach them the things I learned,” she tells me.
For my grandma, it’s all about giving back to others who are in need. She recalls that growing up with five other siblings on a family farm meant that they didn’t have much, but the family would pitch in to help out. Now, the communities she drives for are some of the most in need in our area, and she’s eager to step up to lend a hand. “We’re a very low-income school district,” she shares, “a lot of those families just make it week-to-week. So, when I became a bus driver, I wanted to help fill some of that gap."
“In years past, I bought Christmas presents for kids, gave them treats, and attended their events. It's more than just driving a bus, it’s caring for kids and teaching them to do right.”
Just like any loving grandmother, she frequently goes out of her way for her kids: “In years past, I bought Christmas presents for kids, gave them treats, and attended their events. It's more than just driving a bus, it’s caring for kids and teaching them to do right.”
With a passion for service and a heart for care, my grandma still drives bus, and inspires me as much as her students through her thoughts and actions: “Being in a rural area means there’s a lot of things that we’re not exposed to, a lot of things that kids in big schools get to do and experience, but if we highlight what we have in the small areas, that helps our kids.”
She has carried on this lifelong dedication to support people. By doing so, my grandma is living a new narrative of rural possibility through acts of devotion, common identity, and a genuine sense of family care. That same inner desire to use my gifts and talents for the benefit of others drove me to return to Monmouth, to return to the place and the people that raised me, and to plant my roots even deeper at home.
In honor of my grandma and many others who’ve inspired me, I made a gift of gratitude this year to support the work of RSC in my hometown and beyond. If you have someone or somewhere that holds a special place in your heart, consider acknowledging that love, and acting upon it, with a gift of your own.
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We encourage you to make a gift in honor of a teacher that has influenced your life. Each donation helps further RSC's work in rural communities.