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Ripley-based driver Rexford befriends fourth grade class as ‘Trucker Buddy’

May 25, 2016
By Amanda Dedie - editorial@westfieldrepublican.com , Westfield Republican

FORESTVILLE - "Hello! Have you met our Trucker Buddy Mike," began a letter to truckerbuddy.org, a website that pairs truck drivers with classrooms all over the country to foster a pen pal relationship with.

The "Mike" in question is Mike Rexford, a truck driver from Forestville that operates out of Regal Services in Ripley.

This is Rexford's first year as a trucker buddy. He writes to a class of fourth graders taught by Ms. Jina Newman at Lincoln Elementary School in Fort Wayne, Indiana.

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Mike Rexford, who works for Ripley’s Regal Services, was awarded the Outstanding Trucker Buddy award for the year 2016 for his work with a fourth grade class from Fort Wayne, Indiana.

This is my first year with the trucker buddy program ... The teacher and the students nominated me for the award and as you see I was awarded it," Rexford said. "It feels great. It was a big surprise. I didn't expect it."

The letter continues on to talk about how much the students love hearing from Trucker Rexford, and seeing the cool things he sends them and reading about his adventures on the road.

"He is really awesome, he corresponds to us every other day, or every day. He provided presents for us and he let us sit in his truck and pretend we were driving while he took our picture. We think he deserves to be given the award!

"He also works really hard for his job and travels everywhere to deliver his stuff. He and his wife also rescues animals. They have rescued thirty-two birds and he sends us pictures of them and their names!

"He also writes and corresponds to us whenever he has time but mostly it is daily or every other day. He sometimes sends us pictures and makes captions on them to describe about the picture or what's in the picture.

"Sometimes he sends us gifts like when he came to our class for Christmas. He brought us coffee mugs and a tiny stuffed animal in them along with juice and a card.

"Bye! Hope you pick Mike for the Outstanding Trucker Buddy. He (works) really hard and is very thoughtful to provide us gifts."

On top of gifts and regular letters, Rexford tries to incorporate educational lessons into his writings as well. According to Rexford, the teacher, Newman, tipped him off on the fact that the students were struggling in math, so now at the end of his letters he includes a math problem for the students to figure out. In response, he gets 27 answers - and 27 math problems for he himself to figure out.

"I'll make up something like, 'Amanda has 637 cookies and she gave away 130 of them to Mr. Gib. Then I give her another 45, how many does she have,'" explained Rexford.

This, in turn, has not only helped students with their math skills, Rexford said, but their reading and writing skills as well.

"When they first started writing to me, their letters were terrible," Rexford laughed. "Now, their letters, when I get them every week, you'd never believe they're coming from the same students. It has helped them tremendously."

Trucker Buddy, which has over 2,000 driver-teacher matches and almost 60,000 students per year, was found online during a cruise of the Internet by Rexford, who signed up almost as soon as he found it and went through an extensive background check before being matched with Newman's class.

"It was all new to me. I knew I'd be interacting with the children ... I didn't know I'd get 10,000 questions when I went to see them. It turned out to be real rewarding because it's more than what I expected it to be. The way the children greet you and treat you ... they look up to you and respect you, and they respect you as a person, like anybody else," Rexford said.

In terms of questions, the fourth graders are as inquisitive as any other child before they lose their sense of wonder. Rexford laughed as he listed off a number of questions he was asked when he visited the class in the fall.

"I told them about the caves I drive through, and they couldn't believe there were places underground," Rexford recollected. "They wanted to know if a factory was being built down there. 'Why does it go underground? Why do you haul juice? Where do you get the juice? Where do you get the pies?' They'd ask about the birds (Rexford and his wife used to have) and want to name the birds or the puppies. (They ask about) everything in general."

Rexford not only loves the students he writes to, but the program itself, and is extremely surprised by the fact that the Trucker Buddy program isn't utilized by any school in Chautauqua County. Rexford gives the program his seal of approval, and recommends it to any driver or school.

"It's a very rewarding experience and it does bring tears to your eyes when you see these children actually happy, and you know you help them improve during the school year. You teach them science, you help them with their writing and reading, you help them with their math ... it just helps them grow and everything as far as the school work goes," said Rexford proudly.

Visit truckerbuddy.org to look into pairing your class with a trucker buddy, or to become a pen pal to a class full of students.

 
 
 

 

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