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by Brianne Bowen | Aug 6, 2013 10:18 am
Posted to: Business/ Economic Development, Newhallville
Two state social workers, one from Newhallville, one from Hamden, finally had the jobs they’d studied for years to secure. When they suddenly lost them, they lifted themselves back up—by giving kids a lift.
The two social workers, Jasmine Sampson and Tatiana Dukes, started a business that transports kids and teens to school and other appointments when their parents are too busy to take them.
The pair have followed similar paths to get to this point. They met during an orientation for new state employees. Together, they carpooled to Hartford for training and were hired to address children’s issues. Together, they were laid off during cutbacks in June 2011.
“We were at our dream jobs. We thought everything was fine,” Dukes said. “Then we were given the axe.”
Out of one lost opportunity, Sampson and Dukes created a new endeavor: Piggyback Rides, a transportation service for children aged 3 to 17. Started in March 2012, the company provides rides to school, medical appointments, therapy, and summer camps, among other destinations.
While working for the state, the women noticed a shortage in services that provide rides for children. Mothers might start work at 7 a.m. but need to get their kids to school at 9 a.m. Fathers might work late, but need to bring their kids to an afternoon doctor’s appointment. Piggyback Rides has helped address this gap in services, Sampson and Dukes said, but they believe New Haven will never have enough transportation services to meet the need, as many kids run on the same, school-driven schedule.
Piggyback Rides also facilitates supervised visitation for foster children, bringing them to meet with their birth parents and ensuring the children stay safe. These visits draw upon Sampson and Dukes’ background in social work, as well as the expertise of their employees, some of whom have masters degrees in human services, psychology, and social work.
As Sampson, Dukes, and the company’s employees drive children to appointments each day, they bond with each other, Sampson said. The children trust their drivers and often open up about their lives. “You’re an ear for them,” Dukes said. “[The rides] are kind of therapeutic as well.”
One child invited his driver to his 8th grade graduation.
Having a consistent driver for each child provides stability in what may otherwise be an unstable life, Dukes said. Some of the children come from foster homes, some have experienced abuse or neglect. “They’re good kids,” she said. “They just have unfortunate events in their lives.”
In running Piggyback Rides, Sampson and Dukes draw upon their roles as mothers, too. “I know what it is to be a mom and be worried,” Dukes said. All employees undergo background checks and are trained in CPR and first aid. “We make sure we’re hiring the right people.”
Through Piggyback Rides, the women said, they have been able to continue helping children and the broader community. The women hope the company – which has grown from two employees to 20, from two clients to 30 – will inspire others around them to succeed.
“Don’t get discouraged if your planned-out plan gets derailed,” Dukes said. You can be your own boss, Sampson added. You can make something of your life no matter where you grow up.
Sampson used to park the company’s van – adorned with a smiling piggy logo – outside her home in Newhallville. Neighbors would stop to ask about it. Her friends expressed awe that she’d started her own business.
In contrast to what Sampson described as low expectations for people from her neighborhood, “something good can come out of Newhallville,” she said. “Some people are on the up and up. You don’t have to be a product of your environment.”
As the business grows, Sampson and Dukes said they hope to do more work in the community. A program on parenting. A class for mothers and teens. Mentorship for young boys. Then, Piggyback Rides will be giving both children and the neighborhood a lift.
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a very nice story..i hope they become very successful