Jackson Rogers, a senior history major and new student driver, is becoming known for riding the struggle bus — literally. Coined from the old phrase, Rogers has named the bus he drives “The Struggle Bus” in hopes of bringing college students together through the daily setbacks of life. His dialogue prompts that students are in this together and that everyone can relate to each other’s problems. He hopes that by offering encouragement, he can brighten people’s day and lighten the overall mood of school life by adding daily entertainment to public transportation.
“It’s a way to encourage community and lightheartedness,” Rogers said. “Since I’m on the ICS bus for majority of my time, these are usually people in between classes. There’s a lot of high stress, so anything that can cut that tension I think is really important.”
Rogers started driving for Harrisonburg Department of Public Transport this school year after his friend Elliot Menge, a former student bus driver and now a supervisor, convinced him to try it out. After over 100 hours of training classes and behind-the-wheel, Rogers passed his test and began driving for the ICS bus. According to Rogers, HDPT is flexible with hours and the superintendent Avery Daugherty encourages students drivers to put school first. Rogers drives the ICS bus every Monday, Wednesday and Friday when he isn’t in class.
Rogers’ bus isn’t the typical ride across campus. What started out as simple engagement with the passengers has turned into the persona of “The Struggle Bus.” Rogers likes to interact with the students by having discussions with them on daily annoyances like how cold the weather has gotten or how hard midterms were. He also likes starting chants, telling jokes or playing games like “guess that song.”
Riding his bus, passengers can expect a variety of entertainment. His usual chant goes like this: everytime Rogers says “struggle,” the passengers respond with “bus.” This goes on until the whole bus is chanting “Struggle Bus” as loud as they can. He also likes to have mini trivia sessions with the students by asking questions on popular TV shows and culture references. He mostly only interacts with large crowds but still likes to talk with individuals through the P.A. system.
“I try to do things that get people unified and show everybody that we’re in this together,” Rogers said. “The more you’re willing to make yourself look stupid so people can laugh, the less you mind doing it.”
It’s not new for drivers to wish their passengers to “have a good day” and many other drivers will do this throughout their route, but Rogers goes above and beyond to make students’ day a little bit more enjoyable. According to Rogers’ trainer, Robin Short, the positive feedback they’ve gotten reflects the impact he makes.
“He exudes customer service,” Short said. “He’s here to get you where you need to go, and whether you like it or not and he’s going to treat you the exact same — with a smile and a professional attitude.”
So far, Rogers is the first bus driver to do something of this proportion. While there are several student bus drivers, he’s the first to take passenger interaction to a whole new level and create his own persona. Even though he drives one of the three ICS buses, he personalizes his by including the words “The Struggle Bus” across the outside banner so people know it’s him.
According to Short, Rogers showed enthusiasm for interaction and the job in general from day one during his training. He always found ways to make training fun and even created a comedy skit to remember the parts of a bus for a test.
“You couldn’t have asked for a better trainee, and I want to see him thrive,” Short said. “He interacts so well with his passengers; he makes it pleasurable to go to class.”
At first, not even Rogers thought the Struggle Bus would stick, but after seeing the response it got from students he decided to keep it. According to Rogers, there will be days where no one wants to interact back with him and he feels like it’s the end. Most times though, he enjoys brightening people’s day and hearing the positive feedback.
“I think it’s important to have more bus drivers that talk to us and interact with us,” Liana Ashby, a junior health services administration major, said. “He always seems to make people laugh, and people always seem happier on his bus.”
For the moment, it looks like Rogers will keep the Struggle Bus for as long as he’s driving. He plans to continue having fun and spreading that joy to his passengers instead of letting the automated P.A. system take over.
“I’m not a traditional student, so where I can find experiences where I can open up some form of communication between me and my fellow students is really cool because I don’t get to do that often,” Rogers said. “Some people go to parties, I get on the Struggle Bus.”
Contact Brittany Bell at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more on the culture, arts and lifestyle of the JMU and Harrisonburg communities, follow the culture desk on Twitter @Breeze_Culture.