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Student rides Omnitrans to pursue her dream

Student at the San Bernardino Transit Center

Twenty-one year old Darlene is a long-time Omnitrans rider attending her first semester at Valley College, where she studies criminal justice.

“I’d like to be a probation officer for juveniles,” she explains with a smile. “It’s something I’ve always wanted to do. Because they’re young, you have a chance to help them turn their lives around. Growing up, I’ve seen friends go through this. They tell me they basically check in and go on their way. The probation officer is always on them, but there’s no attempt to gain their trust and get them to open up. There’s no heart-to-heart relationship where they can talk to them about whatever’s going on. There are reasons why people are the way they are, why they’re at where they’re at. If you can dig down deep enough to get to that, you have a chance to help them change.”

Darlene has also thought about going into social work because of her own life history.

“I was raised by my grandmother until I was 5, and she couldn’t do it anymore. My aunt and uncle adopted me and took me in. They also adopted several of my cousins. Whenever a family member faced hard times and couldn’t take care of the kids, they would take them in. There were about eight of us all together. We were all cousins, but we became brothers and sisters.  And our aunt and uncle are now our mom and dad. The experience has made such a huge difference in my life, that I think I  might like to help place other children in homes.”

Darlene’s adoptive dad is a construction supervisor for San Bernardino County and a pastor at a local church, and her adoptive mom is a stay-at-home mom. They were very loving parents, but they also held the kids to strict rules.

“They raised us to have goals in life,” Darlene explains. “I see a lot of parents who just let their kids do whatever they want. Our dad was strict. We weren’t allowed to have a phone or date until we were eighteen.

Student at the customer service window at the San Bernardino Transit Center

“It was so strict but it gave us a good foundation and taught us to be responsible. Even with money. When we started working, our parents had us contribute towards rent.  I would pay $50 to my mom and $50 to my dad and $100 into savings.  It taught us how to portion our money and put aside a savings. My sisters and brothers were able to get cars because of their savings. It’s funny because they didn’t even realize how much money they had. They got so used to putting aside money that six months later they were surprised to find that they had actually saved enough to buy a car.

“My dad didn’t allow us to get jobs until we were 18. He believes that you can’t really focus on school and work a job at the same time. At seventeen we were begging him to let us get a job so we could have spending money, but he said no. He said, ‘I‘ll get you whatever you need or really want. But I want you to concentrate on school until you graduate.’ So that’s what we did.”

Darlene says simply, “They raised us to learn everything, so that when we went out on our own we would be prepared to be successful and not struggle.”

She is now 21 and living in San Bernardino with her birth father while she attends community college. As a Valley College student, Darlene takes advantage of the Omnitrans Go Smart program which allows her to ride free with her college ID.

“I chose Valley College because it’s the closest one to me. When I registered, the lady who gave me my ID told me it was a bus pass as well, which makes it pretty convenient to get around. Mostly I’m traveling between home and school, but I also take the Freeway Express to visit my mom and dad in Montclair.  I like it a lot. It’s really fast and only takes about 30 minutes to get there. I used to have to take Route 15 then 16, but this one goes straight through. I like the free Wi-Fi too!”

Darlene adds, “I also love the new San Bernardino Transit Center. It’s so much better than 4th Street, and I can use the bathroom or get a drink of water. I’m here practically all the time. My dad drives, but if I can get a free ride, I might as well. Especially since the stop is so close to my house. I would like to have a car eventually but it’s really expensive. You pay a lot for insurance and upkeep. For now I’m fine with riding the bus.”

– Juno Kughler Carlson
juno.carlson@omnitrans.org