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Upshur County Schools bus driver Scott Preston presents longtime bus rider Ryan Fitzgerald with an Upshur Star and his very own makeshift dashboard. Preston said Fitzgerald brings joy to everyone with whom he interacts. / All photos by Katie Kuba

Upshur Schools honors outstanding staff, students and one extra-special bus rider

BUCKHANNON – There’s no two ways about it: Buckhannon-Upshur High School senior Ryan ‘One Way’ Fitzgerald brings joy into the lives of everyone he encounters, an Upshur County Schools bus driver said Tuesday.

Upshur County Schools bus driver Scott Preston presented a special Upshur Stars award to longtime bus rider Ryan Fitzgerald at Upshur County Board of Education’s Jan. 24 meeting at Buckhannon-Upshur Middle School.

“For a number of reasons, we’ve asked Ryan and his family to be here tonight,” Preston said. “For one thing, it’s unique that a student rides a school bus from kindergarten through his senior year of high school. Wherever Ryan goes, his presence just elicits a sense of family.”

“I’ve had the honor and privilege of being Ryan’s permanent bus driver for the last two years,” Preston added. “As you may have heard in the background, one of his favorite sayings is ‘one way, one way, one way,’ so we affectionately call him ‘Ryan One-Way Fitzgerald.’ He is a delight to have and greets everybody with a smile. Ryan touches the hearts of just about everybody he comes in contact with.”

Preston also gifted Ryan with his very own makeshift dashboard.

“Ryan has been fascinated with the gadgetry on a school bus, and every evening when we drop him off, he makes sure the parking brake is set, so we have crafted out of salvaged bus parts Ryan’s own dashboard,” Preston said.

Three other Upshur Stars awards were doled out, one of which went to Buckhannon Walmart manager Vonda Cable, whose store recently donated a slew of pallets of clothing and shoes so the Communities in Schools staff members could adequately stock each school’s comfort closet. Upshur County Schools Director of Wellness and Child Nutrition Eddie Vincent ask Communities in Schools site coordinators to come forward and assist in presenting the award.

“Walmart donated a lot of clothing to our schools, and by a lot I mean six or seven pallets that are 10 feet tall at the warehouse and our Communities in Schools people sorted that out and got that out to our schools for our comfort closets,” Vincent said. “It’s a lot of stuff. We still have stuff to get out so we can take more in. I can’t tell you how much our schools needed that and how much our schools appreciate that.”

Shoes, shorts, shirts and jackets were among the multitude of items donated, Vincent said.

Communities in Schools site coordinator Michelle Caynor also expressed gratitude to Cable.

“We actually really wanted to thank Vonda Cable and all of her staff from Walmart for the donation that she made to our schools,” Caynor said. “I know that at the high school, there are a lot of students who utilize the comfort closet on a daily basis – often weekly – and this really helped our school and our students a lot. Without their very generous donation, we would have had to have purchased all the things that were donated to us, so that was a very thoughtful and very great gift for us to receive.”

Communities in Schools staff members and Upshur County Schools Interim Superintendent Dr. Debra Harrison and Interim Assistant Superintendent present Vonda Cable, manager of Buckhannon Walmart, with an Upshur Stars award.

Assistant principal at B-UMS Amy Cale presented Upshur Stars to a handful of outstanding students.

“I would like to begin by acknowledging all of these students for their wonderful character, their academic success, and they’re all around positive [attitude],” Cale said. “They’re just so positive for all of us adults to be around.”

A number of B-UMS students received Upshur Stars from B-UMS assistant principal Amy Cale for their excellent attitudes.

Finally, B-UMS Head Principal Samantha Leput recognized several middle-school staff members who go the extra mile.                

“Without these staff members, our school would not function as a community as it currently does. I appreciate every single moment and second they put into the school because I know they work not just in this building, but they’re working at home. They’re always thinking about the school.”

The next Upshur County BOE meeting is slated for 6 p.m. Feb. 7 at Fred W. Eberle Technical Center.

B-UMS Principal Samantha Leput, at left, presents Upshur Stars to several staff members who are especially dedicated to making B-UMS feel like a community.

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