FRAMINGHAM, MA—On June 26, MassBay Community College announced that Clayton Ward, a bus driver, had earned his college degree after the students whom he transported inspired him to return to school.

A Tennessee native, Ward’s family owned a school bus company, and he began driving a school bus for the City of Framingham when he moved to Massachusetts. He attended college in Virginia after graduating from high school, “but the demands of school and work took their toll on him” and he left after several semesters.

“I really enjoy working with kids, especially the high school students, and during the bus routes, we would chat about their classes. As a history buff, I would share lessons that I learned in school and we talked a lot about academics,” Ward said. “After several of these discussions, some of the students would tell me they wanted me to be their teacher. I think they only said that because I was a different person than their regular teachers, educating them in a different way to pique their interest.”

Nevertheless, the students words’ impacted Ward and “gave me the motivation to complete a goal I had started years ago.” He enrolled at MassBay Community College in May 2019, and continued to drive the school bus while attending classes full-time.

Ward received an Associate in Arts degree in Liberal Arts within one year, and will transfer to Framingham State University in the fall to major in History and minor in Secondary Education. He aims to eventually teach history to high school students.

Ward was on the Dean’s List each semester and was inducted into the Phi Theta Kappa National Honor Society, an honor society which recognizes academic achievement by two-year college students. He will also be given several accolades, including three for his 4.0 GPA—which was the highest in both the Humanities and Social Sciences Division, as well as the Liberal Arts program—and one called “Highest Honors.”

“It wasn’t always easy. I would drive my route in the morning and afternoon, take a class in between shifts, and take night classes and classes online to complete my degree requirements,” Ward added. “I would think of those students and all the years I wanted to make this happen, and it helped me focus my energy.”