Hudson’s Bay High School senior Joana Villasenor rides the Vine home after softball practice. Photos by Troy Wayrynen.

Youth Opportunity Passes expand options for students

The city bus used to intimidate Cody Flemings. “I was like, I totally am not going to be able to do this,” said the high school senior, who began riding C-TRAN last school year on a discounted pass. “But it was pretty easy once I got it down.”

Now, Flemings takes two buses to get to and from Hudson’s Bay High School with the ease of a veteran rider.

Two Hudson's Bay students use Youth Opportunity Passes to get to and from school

From left: Cody Flemings and Joana Villasenor

This year, Flemings and every sixth- through 12th-grade student in Vancouver, Evergreen, Camas, Battle Ground and Washougal public schools have the chance to ride all over C-TRAN’s local service area for free. Now available for the third year, Youth Opportunity Passes are the result of a partnership among the city of Vancouver, C-TRAN and school districts. The passes don’t replace school district’s buses but expand transportation options.

Family-Community Resource Coordinator Chelsea Unger already has distributed 300 passes to students at Hudson’s Bay this year. Unger said that the passes have for many students opened the possibility of participation in after-school activities and sports whose practices end after school buses have stopped running. During non-school hours, passes also allow Vancouver and Evergreen students to access the Marshall and Firstenburg community centers at no cost. The passes are good for an entire year, so students can visit the centers during the summer, when camps and activities are sometimes scarce for teens.

“This is a great partnership and we are grateful to C-TRAN and the city of Vancouver for helping us implement this program in our community,” said Tamara Shoup, VPS’ director of family engagement and Family-Community Resource Centers.

The option to ride the bus also frees up time and resources for families. Joana Villasenor, who plays softball, basketball and soccer at Hudson’s Bay, rides a Vine bus home after practice when family members are working and can’t pick her up. While the ride is short, the walk between the school and her home is long, especially when lugging gear and a backpack in the dark and rain. Riding the Vine, which serves the Fourth Plain corridor, provides the time for the 12th-grader to listen to music and begin homework before she deboards at a stop near her house. “It works out perfectly,” said Villasenor.

While they can’t use their passes forever, “for a lot of students, learning to ride the bus has been a confidence-builder,” said Unger. “Once they get it down, it is really empowering.”

And it’s a life skill that will travel everywhere.

#TeamVPS: Chelsea Unger

Family-Community Resource coordinator

Hudson’s Bay High School

Years with VPS: 5

A few things I’ve learned:

  • Don’t be so quick to judge.
  • Everyone deserves love and acceptance, even if they’ve made poor choices.
  • “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.” —Dr. Seuss (The Lorax)

Three words that describe me:

Open-minded, empathetic and kind.

When I’m not working:

I like to spend time with my family and friends. I also enjoy working in my garden, hanging with my pups or being outdoors.