Meet West Seneca’s ‘Bus Bunch’

Summertime offers teenagers a great opportunity to work hard and earn money. Wanting to provide employment opportunities to eager kids, West Seneca Central School District’s Transportation Department offered part-time jobs to local high school students, washing and cleaning school buses, for the fourth summer in a row.

Of the 12 students employed this summer, ranging in age from 15 to 18 years old, 10 are from the district and two are children of district employees. Each student had to apply for their position and go through an interview process with Transportation Supervisor Linda Malczewsky.

The job requires the students to not only wash the exterior of 88 buses, but thoroughly clean the interior as well. In total, they have about 23 days to get everything ready to go for the school year.

“They have to meet a quota and get things done by Aug. 28,” said Thomas Deubell, who supervises the students with Lynette Zmijewski. “During their summer with us, they learn what to expect in the real world and what it takes to succeed. There’s three people to every team, and they have to work together to get everything done.”

But the job is more than just work. The group becomes a family, with some of the students calling Zmijewski and Deubell mom and dad.

“It gives us a chance to be their surrogate parent,” Deubell joked.

“Sometimes you just have to listen to them and mentor them,” Zmijewski added. “It’s amazing to see kids grow from their very first year here to their very last. They’re all adorable. We love them.”

The supervisors also enjoy creating contests for the kids from time to time, with prizes including a pizza party or a trip to Hoopla for frozen yogurt.

“They’re always super involved and like to make it as fun as possible for us,” shared Dominic Cascio, who is in his third summer working at the bus garage. “They definitely don’t make it feel like work.”

Cascio, who graduated from West Seneca West Senior High School this year, loves the steady hours of the job. “I really like it because it gives consistent hours compared to other part-time jobs teenagers have.” The job also gave him a new appreciation for riding the school bus to and from school. “After my first summer, I got on the school bus for junior year and didn’t want people to be dirty and throw stuff all over the bus.”

Unlike Cascio, many of the students are new to the job this summer. For some, this job is their first time earning a paycheck.

“I did a couple internships, but this is my first paid job,” shared Brittani Ehlenfield, who will be a senior at West Senior this fall. She hopes to use her hard-earned money to buy a TV and laptop. “It’s perfect because you get to do any cleaning job you want and it’s fun. Maybe in the future I can drive some buses!”

The buses are cleaned from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Thursday. Fridays are optional, but if the students come in they get paid for their extra hours. Though they only clean each bus once, the group goes through the lot at the end of the summer to make any finishing touches so they’re ready to go for the school year.