AMES, Iowa — A bus driver in Ames was doing her routine check at the end of the day, picking up trash and checking seats, when she saw what she thought was graffiti.
Scribbled onto the seat was a simple but powerful message: "Whenever you're feeling down, remember you're one of a kind, literally."
The message struck Durham School Services Ames General Manager Sara Knight.
Years before, in 2014, a student on one of Knight's buses unexpectedly died by suicide. From then on, Knight knew she wanted to do something to honor the student when the moment presented itself.
After finding the message scribbled in magic marker, Knight knew the moment was now.
Inspired, Knight started the Graffiti Bus — a bus decked out in words of encouragement, written by DSS' team members and students in Ames.
All 2,500+ students within the Ames Community School District will get the chance to ride the Graffiti Bus before the end of the year.
"It was important that this bus and this project touch every single life," Knight said.
The project began in April, when Knight presented the idea to her team and to the district. After receiving approval, the Graffiti Bus made its debut on April 25.
The bus was created just in time for Mental Health Awareness Month, but Knight hopes this is just the beginning of the project.
"[Bus drivers are] the first smile they see in the morning and the last that they see this part of their school day when they go home," Knight said. "...Not everybody's going home to a great environment. So, you know, this might be the only smile they get. Yeah, I think we just we have the power to make a difference."