Although we see trucks on North American highways all the time, there are a lot of misconceptions about the commercial transportation industry. But the Trucker Buddy International program, a non-profit organization that sends real-life truckers into schools to talk with kids, is trying to change that.
Trucker Buddy International was formed more than twenty years ago. It involves matching elementary school students with professional truck drivers, with truckers sharing stories about their travels and the importance of their work. Students are also encouraged to keep in contact with the truckers through a pen pal program.
Jack and Mary Norton, married truckers from Knapp, Wisconsin, are actively involved in the Trucker Buddy International program. The couple, who met more than thirty years ago while they were driving trucks in Wyoming and Iowa, recently spoke to third-graders at Wakanda Elementary School, which is based in Menomenie, Wisconsin. The Nortons told students of their regular trips to Ontario, California, where they pick up produce that is eventually delivered to Minneapolis, Minnesota. A lot of the produce delivered by the Nortons eventually makes its way into popular food vendors, such as Chipotle, Subway, and Wholesale Produce.
Students were encouraged to ask the Nortons about their lives on the road. Afterwards, they were given a chance to tour the Nortons’ rig.
Wakanda Elementary School teacher Jo Wilson says the program helps students gain a better understanding of the world beyond their home town. “It is a wonderful way for children to experience communities,” Wilson said. “(Students) get to see the U.S. through the eyes of real people.”
The Nortons, who have been participating in the Trucker Buddy International program since it started, say it’s been a remarkably rewarding experience. “I love the questions they ask and the smiles,” Jack Norton said. “It is amazing. Years after we have visited a class, kids will still remember us and remember the Trucker Buddy class.”
Soon, Mary Norton will have a new accomplishment to talk about with kids. On November 6 she’ll be honored as the National Association of Small Trucking Companies‘ female driver of the year. It’s an award that recognizes truckers for attention to safety, community service, and miles driven.