Maria Dominguez always thanks her bus driver.
The 19-year-old UF mathematics freshman wanted to give back to her bus driver on the 12 route with a small gesture that she hoped would leave an impression.
Instead of her usual quick “hello” while boarding and “thank you” while leaving, Dominguez introduced herself to her driver, Betsy, and handed her a pink carnation.
From 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday, students walking on Turlington Plaza could stop by a table to pick up one of 500 carnations and write a thank-you note for their Regional Transit System bus driver. The cost of materials came out to about $500.
The idea of RTS Driver Appreciation Day was to ensure RTS drivers know how much their efforts and hard work are appreciated, said Sana Nimer, the president of Islam on Campus, which assisted in putting on and funding the event.
The event was the first of its kind at UF, Nimer said. It was also put on by the Women’s Student Association, the Asian American Student Union and the Hispanic Student Association, and it is expected to become annual, Nimer said.
“All of these individuals help make our experiences at UF so much greater,” the 21-year-old UF biomedical engineering junior said. “They deserve the recognition for the work that they do.”
One goal was to get students to see their drivers as more approachable and allow students an opportunity to introduce themselves to people they see almost daily, she said.
Dominguez gifted Betsy the pink carnation and a thank-you card as she stepped into the bus near the Reitz Union, much to Betsy’s surprise. Even though she sees Betsy almost every day, she took the opportunity to introduce herself. Betsy returned the gift with a “thank you” and introduced herself to Dominguez.
“She was all smiles,” Dominguez said.
Amanda Baret, a UF criminology and African American studies junior, relies on the 126 bus to get around campus.
After speaking with her bus drivers, the 21-year-old began to notice the effort they put in regularly, often with little acknowledgment, she said.
“I’ve always relied on the bus system and don’t know what I would do without it,” Baret said. “This was a nice way to show they’re appreciated for all their hard work.”
Matthew Diaz, a 21-year-old political science third year, hands a rose and thank you card Monday to Shameer Boursiquot, an 18-year-old aerospace engineering first year, to give to a bus driver for the RTS Driver Appreciation event. “I ride the bus nearly every day to and from school, and it’s always been something I’m really grateful for,” Diaz said.