Growing up in a small, close-knit community like Joseph was a wonderful experience. I am always proud to talk about where I come from and the community that offered me so much support as I was growing up. Recently, much of the faith that I held in that community was ripped out from underneath me. I was shocked to find out that after 21 years of service to the Joseph School District that my father could be so easily dismissed. Not because he made a mistake, not because he could not do his job, not for being lazy or untrustworthy, but because he didn't belong to the union at the school and someone else wanted his hours. Somewhere else this might not seem like such an oddity; the-dog-eat-dog society of today's world is very much a reality. However, if someone had told me that this would happen in Joseph, I would have laughed in their face. In Joseph we take care of each other; we respect hard work. That's why we live there, because we know that our friends will stand by us, and our neighbor is always watching our back.
My father spent 21 years not just as a bus driver, but also as someone who the students loved, and the community trusted to get their children to and from games safely. I can remember bus rides home in snow so thick you could hardly see the road, and comments from parents like, "At least Nils is driving."
These parents knew that their children would be safe. Over the years we would run into students that dad had driven on the bus all the time. "Mr. Ames," was often the first thing out of their mouths, and the reunions were always followed with a flow of stories about some trip they had gone on and the fun they had.
My father was always willing to dedicate his time or go the extra mile. He was good at his job because he genuinely cared about the students, and the health of our school district. He even came back from his retirement to drive a bus when the school did not have enough qualified drivers. Once he came back to the school, the decision to stay on was easy; he loved his job, of course he'd stay. However, retired workers cannot join the union. Eventually it came down to, no union, no job, no matter how much of your life you have dedicated to the position.
I am so disappointed and saddened that the very same people who Dad worked with every day are the ones who undermined him so badly. I think that we had better take a pretty hard look at our values as a community if we can so easily dismiss someone who does their job well, and has dedicated nearly two decades of their life to the health of the school. I certainly hope that the extra hours achieved by the union workers at Joseph are worth it.
I would not wish what happened to my father on my worst enemy, betrayal by people you believe to be your friends is the worst kind. To them I will say, I hope every time you start the travel bus you remember the years of smiles, fun, and safe trips you have to live up to. I hope that you will grant students as many wonderful memories as my dad did. You have some awfully big shoes to fill; I look forward to seeing if you are up to the challenge. To my papa I want to say that the memories you gave my friends and I will always be cherished. You have taught me the value of hard work and dedication, I can only hope that I will someday do my job as well as I know you did for many, many, years. Life is not fair, but please know that I, and many, many, faces that passed through the halls of Jo-Hi will always love you.
Joseph High School
Class of 2000