Jim Thrasher, owner of Thrasher Brothers Trailways in Birmingham, Ala., saw that the same schools were always hiring his motorcoaches for field trips, and he wondered about the other schools. He learned that it was the parents who paid for the trips, not the schools, and some parents couldn’t afford to send their children.
“That’s when I came up with the idea of forming Educational Foundation Trust (EFT) Inc.,” Thrasher said.
EFT, which includes educators and members of the Alabama Motorcoach Association, aims to provide free field trips to at-risk Alabama schools. At-risk status is determined by students’ standardized test performance and the percent of students using the state’s free lunch program.
The group is moving fast to apply for federal, state and corporate funding to cover the cost of transportation, lunches and admissions fees.
“We’re going to corporations like Coca-Cola — large corporations — because the cause is education for disadvantaged children,” Thrasher said.
The nonprofit conducted its first official field trip on Jan. 25 with the fourth-grade students from Whatley School.
“We took them to Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church in Montgomery, the capitol and the governor’s mansion, and we had a free lunch in the park,” Thrasher said.
“It was incredible to think that some of those kids had never been out of Jefferson County,” Thrasher added.
EFT’s goal this year is to take 8,500 students from Jefferson County and Alabama’s Black Belt region on similar trips to historical and cultural sites. Thrasher Brothers, which has been giving educational tours in Alabama for 30 years, will take the lead in organizing the trips.
Thrasher also wants to take high school juniors and seniors on trips to car manufacturing plants in Alabama to expose them to higher-paying job opportunities.
“Our main focus is to get the disadvantaged kids an education equal to the other kids in the city that can go to Montgomery or Washington (D.C.). They hear about it, but they never get to go,” said Thrasher.