Before the sun rises, Waxahachie ISD bus driver Josh Morgan has already clocked in, completed a health screening, cooled down the bus, and conducted the Department of Transportation safety checklist.

Morgan subbed as a bus driver in the 2019-20 school year, picking up shifts regularly, and decided to work full time this year after he realized the difference the job made for him and the students.

Morgan drives bus route 67, and conducts 19 stops for elementary and 20 stops for secondary — a route he makes twice a day in the morning and afternoon.

"It’s very peaceful, and I enjoy doing it, so I decided to come back," Morgan explained.

With a 6:35 a.m. departure from the bus barn, Morgan is greeted by a glowing sky.

"I love the sun coming up," Morgan said as he headed toward U.S. Highway 77.

Morgan makes a difference in the lives of Shackelford, Coleman Junior High, and Waxahachie High School bus riders daily and has made a difference in the school district serving on the Waxahachie ISD Education Foundation board (16-17 through 18-19). Morgan also plays an important role in Operation First Day of School, coordinating with churches, businesses, and organizations to donate supplies for more than five years.

When he is not busing children, Morgan pastors full time at Connect4Life. He has served in that role since 2012. Connect4Life is conveniently located behind Wedgeworth Elementary, where his church adopts a class each year.

Morgan always has a "side-gig," which typically revolves around the sports industry. For 15 years, Morgan officiated basketball, baseball, and softball games at the high school, club, and collegiate levels. He even assisted the Finley Junior High basketball team at one point.

"It’s funny because all of those kids are going to be seniors this year," Morgan noted.

Morgan eventually underwent a hip replacement, which made it difficult to officiate. After two years of running up and down the court making calls on a new hip, he retired his stripes and was on the lookout for his next gig.

As he surveyed different opportunities to impact children’s lives, he was told about the need for bus drivers.

"It’s been interesting to watch because I used to think that kids from this neighborhood might be different from this neighborhood, and in reality, all kids are the same … I’ve also learned that our community is more diverse than people think," Morgan said about his experience.

The local demographics intrigued Morgan since he helped found The Waxahachie Project and had the opportunity to dig deep in the town’s demographics. As a bus driver, he sees the population at a closer level and is happy to see a more diverse community.

Busing students also expanded his perspective of the different levels of need in the community when it comes to children. Being able to engage with the students, Morgan has a better understanding of the needs of families in the community.

"I’m aware of need when I see it, and I’ve spent a lot of time praying when I see it," Morgan said while he bounced in the bus driver seat.

Morgan reflects on those needs and asks himself how the church, district, and community can assist with them.

Morgan also takes the time to talk to the students and make them feel at home, especially when they do not have someone to sit with. As a substitute driver last year, Morgan was not able to make as many in-depth connections with students, but drove more routes than others, and was able to build relationships.

"At the end of the day, I know elementary kids just want people to see them and care about them. People think that changes when a kid comes to high school, but they also want someone to see them and acknowledge them."

As Morgan buses consistent routes this school year, he hopes to make a greater impact on the students and develop more relationships.