Pursuing a college degree as a 43-year-old divorced mom of three on a tight budget can be challenging—especially when you don’t drive.
But that’s not stopping Omnitrans rider Erica Clendenen, who is currently working on her associates degree at San Bernardino Valley College and plans to pursue her bachelors in social work at Cal State University, San Bernardino. Although she tries to take her courses online whenever possible to keep costs down, several of them require live classroom training. Thanks to the Go Smart program, she can easily get to her classes—and anywhere else she needs to go—by riding the bus for free with just her student ID.
“I couldn’t do this without Go Smart,” admits Erica frankly. “I have three children ages 8, 10 and 15, so getting around can be very expensive for us as a family. Having my own bus fare covered by the program helps us tremendously.”
Erica’s kids have been riding Omnitrans for so many years that they know all the stops and routes by heart. Her youngest loves the bus and enjoys saying hello to the drivers. Erica herself is a technology buff and a huge fan of NexTrip.
“I’m obsessed with the NexTrip app!” she laughs. “I’m on it more than games or anything else on my cell phone. Before, I was always missing the bus. Now I set alerts to notify me two minutes in advance of when the bus is arriving. I love it! I’m pretty impatient and don’t like sitting at the stop. With NexTrip, I can do some shopping at the grocery store instead of just waiting around.”
Like many Omnitrans riders, Erica has a heightened sense of community and a strong desire to make a difference.
“My goal is to work with troubled teens when they first get into the court system—to help them turn their lives around. It’s so easy for kids to get involved with gangs and drugs and guns. I’m thankful that my 15-year-old is a homebody. He’s an honors student and would rather be at home playing his video games than out on the street. But some of his friends have been in trouble, and it’s really hard. We’re losing too many young men to the street. They need someone to believe in them. They need to know that even though your neighborhood or living situation might not be great, you can choose to go forward and make a better life. It’s all about making good choices.”
– Juno Kughler Carlson