The Big Bus was born in 2022 when our founder, Tracy Davidson, ran a re-election campaign for school board in Westerville, OH. Spending time out in the Westerville community, Tracy spoke with New American families at Abbey Lane apartments. Many of these families had arrived in the United States within the last three to five years, some from refugee camps.
Many of the Abbey Lane parents expressed hope that their children could receive academic support. For immigrant students who are also trying to learn English, navigating public education and succeeding in school involves serious challenges and complexities. Things we often take for granted—knowing the language that school subjects are taught in, for example—aren't always a given for these students.
One of the mothers, in broken English, asked if there was a way that she and other mothers in their community could receive help with their English language and reading skills. That way, they could help their children succeed in school while also helping each other integrate into their new community. She repeated the idea in Somali, and all of the mothers around her nodded their heads in agreement.
The idea for The Big Bus began to take shape that day, with dreams of bringing multigenerational impact and educational equity to under-resourced areas. The first literal Big Bus—our school bus beautifully redesigned into a mobile classroom—quickly became road ready, with its first stop set to Abbey Lane. The Big Bus team, meanwhile, made a commitment to continue deeply listening to community needs, with the understanding that supporting individuals and groups in need benefits our entire community ecosystem.
We started with after-school K-5 tutoring at Abbey Lane Apartments, and this summer, we expanded to include English Language Learning (ELL) programming for parents and kindergarten readiness for preschool children. With our programming more firmly established, we hope to begin making stops at other communities—Cooper Colony and Newcastle Townhomes—within the next year.