Program provides free bus passes for West County students
- Program provides free bus passes for West County studentsBy Shelly Meron
Contra Costa Times<smeron@...?subject=ContraCostaTimes.com:%20Program%20provides%20free%20bus%20passes%20for%20West%20County%20students>
Posted: 09/11/2009 07:27:39 PM PDT
Updated: 09/13/2009 05:30:01 PM PDT
Getting students to attend school can be a challenge anywhere � many kids
would gladly trade a day of solving algebra problems or discussing Beowulf
for sleeping in and playing video games.
But in West Contra Costa, students often must overcome more than just their
own motivational obstacles.
"Young people were talking about how sometimes they were forced to walk to
school when they wanted to take the bus, and had to cross into difficult
neighborhoods. There were safety issues," said Contra Costa Supervisor John
Gioia, whose district includes much of West County. "We were also hearing
about low-income families who, toward the end of the month, had to make
difficult choices, and had to trade transportation for food. What we heard
was the need to figure out a way to help students get to school."
So, starting in 2001, Gioia teamed with Alameda County Supervisor Keith
Carson, then-state Assemblywoman Dion Aroner and local transportation
officials to propose a bus pass program for low-income children. Now, after
a successful two-year pilot program, the initiative is being rolled out in
the West Contra Costa and John Swett school districts; West Contra Costa
does not provide student busing, and in John Swett, students must pay for
The program gives free AC Transit monthly youth bus passes or low-cost
WestCAT 15-ride passes to local high school students who qualify for free
and reduced-price lunches; they can use the passes to commute to school,
after-school and recreational activities, and part-time jobs. Students also
can trade in the WestCAT passes for their cash value of $15 toward a $40
Students must apply for the program, and 2,000 kids will be awarded the
passes on a first-come, first-served basis. As of Friday, the West Contra
Costa district had received about 700 applications.
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