The phrase “it’s never too late to get a degree” has never been truer. While this milestone usually happens earlier in life, many, due to circumstances or personal choice, don’t experience it.

For Clayton Ward, a school bus driver in Massachusetts, getting a degree was something he always wanted to do. Life had steered him in another direction, but he never lost sight of this goal. He just needed a little inspiration.

Clayton was inspired by the students he drove to school

Upon moving to Massachusetts, Clayton followed in his family’s footsteps–they owned a school bus company in Tennessee–and became a bus driver himself. However, he never forgot his desire to get an education.

I never lost that need or that want to do more schooling or have a degree.

Clayton Ward to CBS

It was when he spoke to the students in his bus about his passion for history, that something clicked within him. “I got the inspiration [to go back] after talking specifically to my high schoolers about a passion of mine, which is history,” Clayton said.

Just talking with them a little bit about history … it inspired me, especially hearing them say, ‘You should be my teacher.’

From school bus driver to student

After 7 years of driving his school bus, Clayton enrolled at MassBay Community College in May 2019. Despite this major change, he did not give up his main profession. Yes, Clayton kept his job as bus driver full-time but this time, he had something to look forward to–he wanted to become a high school history teacher.

He got to share his experience with his daily passengers, especially those who were older and looking to apply to college.

“It came up in conversation, especially some of the older ones who are starting to look at colleges … I said, ‘If you’re looking at community college, you should look at MassBay, it’s a good school,'” he said.

Clayton is excelling

Despite a full-time job, Clayton is by no means undermined by the school workload. He’s made the Dean’s list and joined the Phi Theta Kappa National Honor Society.

It’s about your discipline. It’s not about doing the right thing when people are watching you, it’s doing the right thing when they’re not watching you.

One of the few advantages of the COVID-19 pandemic was to have more time to finish his degree with a flawless streak. Clayton

“I didn’t think I would ever be at this point … I expected to do well, but I didn’t imagine doing straight As, I didn’t imagine being on the Dean’s list, getting three or four awards for having one of the best GPAs for the graduating class,” Clayton said. “It’s still kind of all surreal to me.”

He wants to give back

Clayton is heading to Framingham State to complete his bachelor’s degree, now that he is done with his associate’s degree. But the location holds special significance to him.

“It’s right in the area where I would like to teach, because Framingham is a lower-income city. That’s where I’m geared to go towards, just because of my experience,” he said. “Even with my family and their bus company, a lot of the routes we did were through lower-income housing.”

As for the students who motivated him, Clayton has a message for them.

You guys mean so much to me. I thank you for every time we were able to talk. It gave me more of a drive, more ambition to go [to school].

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