Tips for Volunteer Drivers

 

Thank you for offering to drive one of our students to a doctor’s appointment, to school, to a job interview, or to work.  It may seem like a small thing, but these rides are often the difference between success or failure for a young person.  It is also a wonderful opportunity for these students to meet and get to know a caring adult.  We also encourage the students to practice their conversation skills with you and to ask you about your life experiences.

 

Basic Logistics:

  • Generally, your contact will be Natalie May nbmay@verizon.net or 804-803-5620).  She will provide the student's name, cell number, pick up time and location, destination, and any special instructions.

  • If you find that you are unable to drive your student at the last minute, please let Natalie know as soon as you can so we can try to find a replacement.

  • We recommend that you text the student when you leave the house and tell him or her what time you expect to arrive.  We encourage students to respond to this text so that you know they are ready.

  • When the student gets in your car, confirm your destination with them.  Natalie once drove a student to a job interview at Food Lion; she thought the interview was at the Forest Hill Food Lion, but her interview was on Jeff Davis Highway!  Fortunately they caught the mistake in time.

  • It goes without saying: SEAT BELTS.  And never drive babies or infants. This is our rule, simply because car seat installation can be so tricky.

  • We highly recommend using a GPS if you have one!  Your safety and the student’s safety are so important.  Keep your doors locked in unfamiliar neighborhoods.  Do not carry a lot of money or valuables in your car with you.  Use a GPS or map out your route ahead of time so you don’t get lost.  Be aware of your surroundings.

 

Not Just a Driver:

Just as we know from raising our own children, time in the car is often the best opportunity for us to listen.  The more we have learned about the lives of homeless teenagers, the more compassion we have grown.  This knowledge will also help us become better advocates and teachers.  Without prying or violating their privacy, to try your best to engage the student in conversation, ask questions about school and their interests.  Some children will open up and others won’t, but at least they will see that someone cares enough to ask.  (Some conversation starters below might give you ideas.) Our students are instructed to avoid texting & phone calls while in the car with you.

 

Expectations:

  • All of our students are delightful and have their own unique charm.  However, if a student is ever rude or disrespectful to you, please let Natalie know right away.  We will speak to the student and if it happens again, we will stop providing rides for him or her.  There are many other students who will be appreciative of your time and caring.

  • We tell the students that our volunteer drivers are just that, drivers.  You are not their date!  They are not to ask or expect you to provide a meal or anything beyond transportation to the scheduled appointment.  If you feel inclined to buy them a sandwich or some groceries, that is fine, but do not ever feel obligated to do so.

  • Just as we know that you will be punctual, we expect the students to be ready when you arrive to pick them up.  If they are not, please gently remind them that they need to be on time.  (If it’s easier, simply say that you have a limited amount of time and waiting makes you late for your next appointment.)  If it becomes a chronic problem, tell us.  These are important life lessons that will serve them well in the long run.

  • It is fine if you and the student arrange rides without using Natalie as the go-between.  We just don’t want the driving to become a burden, so pace yourself!  Please let Natalie know if this is occurring, however, so she is aware that the student is receiving this assistance.

 

Conversation Ideas:

Any conversation you have with your student rider will be beneficial, so these are simply suggestions that might be helpful.

 

Here are a couple of things to keep in mind:

 

During your time in the car, you have the opportunity to shine a light on some of the things the student does well.  So often, students only hear what they’re doing wrong.  If you enjoy the student’s company, be sure to say so.  If you think the student has a great sense of style, tell her.  Look for his or her strengths and point them out.

 

Once you get to know a student you can play an important role in helping them think about their future.  Ask questions about what they enjoy doing, about their values, about people they admire.  This may open up some possibilities and dreams for the future that the student hadn’t even considered!

 

  • Have you always lived in Richmond?

  • What is your favorite subject in school?

  • Who is your favorite teacher?  What does s/he do that you like?

  • If you could spend the day doing anything you wanted, what would you do?

  • Tell me about one good thing that happened to you today.

  • Who is someone you really admire? 

  • Would you like to go to college?  What do you think you’d like to study?

  • What is your favorite movie?  Tell me about it.

  • What would you like to learn how to do this year?

 

Please keep in mind that anytime you are transporting someone in your car, whether it be a student or a close friend, you are taking on the personal liability that always comes with driving someone. 

 

Stay in touch with Natalie.  Send an email, if you can, to let us know how things went.  If you hear anything from the student that you think we should know, don’t hesitate to call or email.  And never forget – we appreciate all that you do.  The students do, too!

If you have signed up to become a volunteer driver, please complete the driver information form.  It helps us to introduce you to our students!  Thank you.