May 30, 2017

A feel-good story with a busload of books in Arizona


Quite hot. Too hot. Mind-alteringly hot. Fry-an-egg-on-the-sidewalk hot.

All phrases you might use describing the stretches of rock and Saguaro Cacti known as Arizona. It’s also a place known for being particularly hostile toward immigrants, with a volunteer militia that sits at the border in lawn chairs, clutching gungs, waiting (fun story, their leader was recently sentenced to twenty years in prison for child sex abuse).

Arizona is also the birthplace of teen vampire fiction author Stephenie Meyer, as well as the Oscar-winning actress Emma Stone. I was born there too, which only matters because it entitles me to say nasty things about current governor Doug Ducey, former governor and unabashed racist Jan Brewer, former Sheriff and human pit stain Joe Arpaio, and the current state of Arizona’s public education — currently ranked forty-seventh in the nation from pre-K through twelfth grade. As a product of that educational system, I really appreciate news of people trying to do what the Arizona State Legislature simply won’t: help.

Enter Jermaine Bethea.

As Nicole Cammorata reports over at Mashable, Bethea is a Valley Metro bus driver with a soft spot for kids — particularly those at Curry Elementary, where he used to be a bus driver. Cammorata writes:

When he drove for the school, he knew the name of every kid on his route. If someone seemed down, he’d pop into [Principal Kenneth] White’s office to let him know. On one of those visits, Bethea had a boxful of books in hand — he’d organized a drive among some of his fellow drivers.

Bethea hasn’t abandoned his support for the students. A few weeks ago, he collected over 2,100 books to donate to Tempe elementary schools. All 600 students at Curry Elementary got to take books home for the summer.

At the same time, the Arizona legislature has continued to expand voucher programs, and Governor Ducey has vetoed a bill that would’ve protected student journalists from administrative oversight (remember those kids who uncovered that their principal was a fraud?).

But hey, I’m glad Jermaine Bethea is bringing kids books. Maybe local officials should try a page from his playbook sometime.



Peter Clark is a former Melville House sales manager.