Kelley Hubert is dedicating her life to helping special needs children. The 36-year-old is a school bus driver for students with disabilities, a job she has held for five years. She refers to her passengers as "my kids."
"The way I look at it is, they’re on my bus and I treat them as if they’re my own," she said.
Hubert wants to expand her work with special needs children. She is graduating from the Community College of Rhode Island with a degree in psychology and will attend Rhode Island College with a double major in psychology and mental health counseling. She eventually plans to pursue a certificate of advanced graduate study – essentially a Ph.D. program without a thesis – and work in an early intervention program.
"I just think sometimes children need someone to fight for them because they can’t do it themselves," she said.
Unfortunately, Hubert learned this lesson personally. Her daughter Dakota, now 16, has a learning disability from lead poisoning at age 3. When her daughter first went to school, Hubert said, she was on the phone with her teachers and principal almost every day and came to be on a first-name basis with them. The attention that Dakota received seems to be paying off.
"Today she has every intention of attending college," Hubert said about her daughter.
She has a strong example to follow.
Hubert has attended CCRI several times; the first time was in the radiography program in 1998. The most recent attempt began in 2007. Hubert said her family was the reason she was able to stay on the path to education this time around.
"I have a much better support group," she said, having been married in 2007. "[My husband] is my own personal cheering system. I’m not much different than other students here. I get frustrated and overwhelmed. He just keeps telling me ‘You can do it, you can do it.’"
She also wants to set an example for her children.
"I’m very proud of all of them," she said. They were my main reason for coming back to school. I wanted to show them how important an education is."
The message seems to have been received. Hubert’s oldest daughter, Angelica, 18, plans to follow her mother to CCRI after high school. Her youngest daughter, Autumn, 12, wants to be a trauma room doctor.
"They are my driving force in life," Hubert said.
Another motivator during Hubert’s time in college, she said, has been the college itself.
"The support system here is phenomenal," she said.