Never Missing A Day Keeps the Bus Driver Away

October 22, 2014

Culture, The Zoetics

Photo By Hannah Worker Brandon Battelle in his newly purchased Honda Civic. He purchased it with the $3,000 he won for having perfect attendance.

Photo By Hannah Worker
Brandon Battelle sits in his newly purchased Honda Civic. He bought it with the $3,000 he won for having perfect attendance.

 

By Cole Feltman

It’s early in the morning, and a scholar is sitting alone on a local bus, surrounded by strangers. For two and a half years, ASK senior Brandon Battelle was that scholar. He would wake up early and get ready for school, knowing he had an hour long commute ahead of him. His mother would drop him off at the bus station near Coors and Sequoia, where he would  take the 20 minute bus ride to the Cibola stop. There, friends would pick him up and drive him the rest of the way to campus.

Even with the long bus rides, Battelle managed not to miss a single day of school since being enrolled at The ASK Academy. The years of perfect attendance paid off at the end of last year, when Battelle’s name was was entered into a contest hosted by the New Mexico Auto Dealer Association, and he won $3,000.

Battelle said he had a  reason to get up early every day and commute from a neighborhood in southwest Albuquerque near Unser and 98th. “This school; the fact that the teachers want to teach me as much as I want to learn, I love it,” he said.

Battelle had previously been home schooled his entire life, minus a stint at another charter school his sixth grade year, which he hated. He said by the time he hit his teenage years, he was becoming lazy and unmotivated, and his mom told him that he needed to do something, whether it be enrolling in a high school or getting his GED. Battelle began researching schools in the area, and created an Excel spreadsheet with the pros and cons of various schools. Eventually, he decided on The ASK Academy, and enrolled at the beginning of his sophomore year.

Once he committed to getting an education, he never missed a day of school. “There is no reason to miss a day,” he said. “It makes it difficult, because you get behind on work, and you have to ask people what you missed — it is just better to come every day.”

Riding the city bus across Albuquerque presented some challenges for Battelle. Sometimes the bus would not come on time, causing him to be tardy. It also prevented him from being able to join after school clubs, since public transportation stops at a certain time each day.

He said most days he would do his homework on the bus ride home. People from all walks of life rode with him, and he befriended some of the regular commuters, as well as the bus driver. “We would talk; I would just stand up at the front while he was driving, and we would talk.” Other times, however, there were less friendly passengers, such as the occasional drunk man who boarded the bus, causing all the passengers to freeze awkwardly.

The perfect attendance contest hosted by the New Mexico Auto Dealer Association changed its structure last year. They used to give away $12,000 dollars to one student, but now contestants are divided into categories by grade, and the winner of each grade receives $3,000. As a junior, Battelle went up against five other students, two of them were ASK Scholars Austen Lane and Austin Aguinaldo.

There was excitement in the air moments before Battelle’s name was pulled.  Project Manager Dan Barbour was there the day of the drawing. “I was ecstatic that one of our scholars won, it reps our school very well,” he said.

Battelle said the first person he called was his mother to tell her that he had won the money.

Battelle’s new found wealth came with an amount of uncertainty. He said he was torn between buying a car or investing in stocks, one of his hobbies. He began searching Craigslist, and spotted a car that met his needs: a ’99 Honda Civic.

“(Purchasing the car) changed a lot of things. It didn’t just give me freedom, my life at home is different. I don’t have restrictions, I don’t have to worry about being on time to school anymore. I don’t have to worry about getting out of school exactly at 4 p.m., so I can find my carpool ride to the bus.”

Battelle said now he is able to join student organizations, like archery, and National Honor Society, where he is the president this year.

Next year, Battelle will be heading off to the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology, and plans to bring his car to Socorro.  He said despite being thankful that his public transportation days are over, he still pays attention to the bus system, looking at the schedules, noticing when the buses pass him, “in case I ever have to take them again.”

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