The woman behind the wheel
Stampede driver Grace Armbruster overcomes dyslexia
Published: Thursday, October 25, 2012
Updated: Monday, November 5, 2012 20:11
At 9 years old, Grace Armbruster faced one of the most challenging obstacles in her life. After struggling with reading in her classes for years, she finally found out why she always felt left behind and wasn’t learning things as fast as the rest of her classmates.
She is dyslexic.
According to research done by Headstrong Nation, one in seven Americans is diagnosed with learning disabilities. Dyslexia is a language-based learning disability characterized by difficulty in reading. Symptoms include talking later than most children and difficulty in pronouncing and reading words.
Despite her dyslexia, Armbruster took control of her life. She is a mother, a grandmother and a UB Stampede driver. She wouldn’t be where she is now without her determination.
After discovering she was dyslexic at such a young age, Armbruster was terrified and discouraged. Kids made fun of her because she was in special education classes. Despite the torment, Armbruster was determined to manage her disability and never let it get in the way of her future. She tried to maintain a positive outlook.
“I can’t control other people’s attitudes,” Armbruster said. “I can only control mine.”
She didn’t let her illness stop her from living a full life. She became a member of the U.S. Army straight out of high school.
“Basically, it was something my mother couldn’t stop me from doing,” Armbruster said. “I went out there on my own, and I made it through even though I was handicapped, and that was tough.”
While working for the military police for eight years, Armbruster gained experience as a driver and also met the love of her life.
They have been married for 18 years and together they have three children. Armbruster is a grandmother of six and two more are on the way. She considers caring for family to be her other full-time job. She spends as much time with her grandkids as possible.
“[Grandkids are] like seeing your kids grow up all over again and getting to spend time with them,” Armbruster said. “It’s a real joy.”
After she left the army, she heard about an opening for a bus driver position through an ex-boyfriend. Armbruster jumped at the opportunity and devoted her time to working to pass her driving test. When she did, she was ecstatic.
She drove for companies such as Carrier Coach, Joe Valley Ranch and Adventure Call for 15 years. She has been a Stampede driver since last November. She looks forward to her job every day.
It’s never boring on the Stampede, Armbruster said.
With shifts ranging from five to nine hours, Monday through Sunday, Armbruster’s schedule leaves little room for leisure. But when she does get some down time, crocheting is her preferred release.
Her job is a demanding one. She has to deal with college students and many diverse people with different personalities. Sometimes, this is an obstacle. But for Armbruster, the joy of the job comes from meeting new people every day with unique stories, especially on the infamous drunk bus.
Weekends at UB usually mean one thing: parties. With the convenience of a “designated bus driver,” driving intoxicated students between campuses Friday and Saturday nights can get a little chaotic.
“You see people fighting and making out,” Armbruster said. “But when I see people making out, I usually just try to mind my own business.”
According to Matt and Andy, frequent passengers of the drunk bus who requested their last names be withheld, calling the weekend “wild” is an understatement. They rarely experience a quiet ride home.
“One time, they stopped the bus for a pretty long time, but it was for a good reason,” said Matt, a sophomore biology major. “Someone lit up a [joint] on the bus and they called the police.”
As long as people follow the unspoken rules of the “drunk bus,” Andy and Matt don’t mind the rowdy transportation.
“The number one rule to riding the drunk bus is to handle your business,” said Andy, a sophomore undecided major. “The worst part is dealing with belligerent people always trying to start a fight with you. I’ve been in a few altercations myself and it’s never a good thing.”
Some nights are crazier than others, but Armbruster is always prepared to handle the situation – from the smallest incidents to more serious ones. Her main priority is getting the students to South Campus and back safely. When things get out of hand, Armbruster calls the police.
“It’s important to have a good attitude about it,” Armbruster said. “If not, this isn’t the place to be.”
Most kids get on and off the bus without paying much attention to the bus drivers, but some do value the work drivers put into getting kids safely to their destinations.
“The bus drivers are angels,” Andy said. “They put up with so much and they’re doing the best they can. Personally I could never do their job; it has to be one of the hardest jobs.”
At 48, Armbruster doesn’t have any retirement plans of yet, but she doesn’t mind having to put it off for a little longer.