Bottom row, left to right: Gesselle Hernandez, Dieunel Victor, Joey Acevedo, Angela Sturgis, Ana Maria Mariscal, Suerena Lafrance, Roger Singh, Trevor Walters, Jalessia Powell, Waldes Fieffe, Daniel Gustana, Rockfeller Petit-Frere, Audrey Amusin, Lovett Cummings, Claudine Shaw Middle row, left to right: Fred Richardson, Chrisner Paul, Craig Wilson, Kevin Williams, Fabian Hernandez, Roszetta Benjamin, Verdenia C. Baker, Marci Woodward, Todd J. Bonlarron, Gregory Grant, Michelle Peay, Christian Joseph, Ovans Isaac, Aaron Hernandez, Demessous Pierre, Michael Johnson , Kensy Michel, Henry Ronald, Pauleon Pierre Top row, left to right: Luis German Botero, Dennard Hutchinson, Jean Giles Alexis, Acedy Cherrelus, Anthony Akins, Sylfaite Anneus, Earl Bennet, Freddy Aragon-Fernandez, Robert Cox, Lindsey Hall  -  Photo: Palm Tran

Bottom row, left to right: Gesselle Hernandez, Dieunel Victor, Joey Acevedo, Angela Sturgis, Ana Maria Mariscal, Suerena Lafrance, Roger Singh, Trevor Walters, Jalessia Powell, Waldes Fieffe, Daniel Gustana, Rockfeller Petit-Frere, Audrey Amusin, Lovett Cummings, Claudine Shaw

Middle row, left to right: Fred Richardson, Chrisner Paul, Craig Wilson, Kevin Williams, Fabian Hernandez, Roszetta Benjamin, Verdenia C. Baker, Marci Woodward, Todd J. Bonlarron, Gregory Grant, Michelle Peay, Christian Joseph, Ovans Isaac, Aaron Hernandez, Demessous Pierre, Michael Johnson , Kensy Michel, Henry Ronald, Pauleon Pierre

Top row, left to right: Luis German Botero, Dennard Hutchinson, Jean Giles Alexis, Acedy Cherrelus, Anthony Akins, Sylfaite Anneus, Earl Bennet, Freddy Aragon-Fernandez, Robert Cox, Lindsey Hall

Photo: Palm Tran

Thirty-four bus operators and six maintenance technicians were all dressed in neatly pressed uniforms as they entered a room of cheering family members, all there for their Bus Operator and Maintenance Technician Graduation ceremony, the largest in Palm Tran’s history.

The standing-room-only ceremony was held at the Jane Thompson Memorial Chambers, where the Palm Beach County Board of County Commissioners meets, had the hall packed with family members of graduates, Palm Tran support staff, and dozens of County officials and department heads.

About the Graduation

This graduation was special, not only for being the largest since the County began the practice in 2016, but it took place less than a week after the sudden passing of Clinton B. Forbes, Executive Director of Palm Tran.

The bittersweet ceremony served simultaneously as a celebration of the training completion of recently hired Palm Tran essential employees, and also as a commemoration of Forbes’ impact on the transit agency.

It was Forbes who first introduced the idea of bus operator graduation ceremonies for Palm Tran after he was appointed leader in 2015 by Palm Beach County Administrator Verdenia C. Baker. He also was behind the decision to upgrade the operator uniforms to give a more professional look, something many speakers made note of.

The graduation ceremony was adopted to recognize bus operators for completing Palm Tran’s six-week training. The program involves classroom work, Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) training, and real-life preparation that includes weeks of driving a fixed-route bus with an instructor.

This ceremony also was the first to include maintenance technicians, who train for six months to learn preventative maintenance, engine troubleshooting, air brakes, pneumatics, electrical systems, transmissions, steering, and suspension for Palm Tran’s fleet of buses and cars.

Palm Beach County Commissioner Marci Woodward delivers the keynote speech.  -  Photo: Palm Tran

Palm Beach County Commissioner Marci Woodward delivers the keynote speech.

Photo: Palm Tran

Addressing the Graduates

Lisa De Larioda, Palm Beach County Director of Public Affairs opened the ceremony. Before reading off the names of graduates, she said “We are here to celebrate our new members, and are gathered here because of one man in particular, Clinton B. Forbes, who passed away last week. It was his vision to host a graduation ceremony for bus operators and maintenance technicians. We are here today with him in spirit. Clinton would want this day to be focused on you. This is a badge of merit and honor.”

Following her was Charlie Boettiger, Senior Manager of Fixed Route Operations to read the safety message, another tradition started by Forbes. Joey Acevedo, President of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1577 then offered words of solace. “This agency has been tested and rocked to its core. But I believe with the support we have and leaning on each other, we can make it through. He was not only a director, he was more like a brother,” said Acevedo.

Assistance County Administrator Todd Bonlarron stated, “This day is a day to honor our graduates... My colleague and friend Clinton Forbes started this tradition back in 2016, to celebrate your success, welcome you into our organization, and be the red carpet into the journey you’re about to venture out on. Clinton was a visionary leader in this industry.”

Sharing words of wisdom was veteran bus operator Loretta Fuegos, who was named the Florida 2022 Bus Operator of the Year by the Florida Public Transportation Association (FPTA).

“I started at Palm Tran 27 years ago and it warms my heart to see all of you starting your journey,” she said. “I love my job and I love to drive. This isn’t just a job, it’s a career and one you should be proud to be a part of. Our passengers rely on us to get to work and to see their families and loved ones. It’s our job to get them there safely and on time. Today you become officially recognized as a transportation professionals. Congratulations to all of you and welcome to the Palm Tran family.”

County Administrator Verdenia C. Baker stepped up to the podium to share her memories of Forbes. “Mr. Forbes would be smiling ear-to-ear looking at you here today. He was my friend, he was a colleague, he was an awesome leader, he changed the way we provide transit here in Palm Beach County, and he left us with a vision to be the best Transit Agency in the country,” said Baker before switching to address the operators. 

“You are the County’s ambassadors to the public. Your riders are depending on you to get them where they’re going. We never know what they’re facing, so your kindness and compassion for your riders will go a very long way.”

Finally, County Commissioner Marci Woodward gave the keynote speech. “Clinton Forbes did wonderful things for Palm Tran, he will be missed. His legacy continues in Palm Tran, his joy lives on in all of us. Every time you smile at a customer, you are carrying out his legacy,” remarked Woodward. “We’re honored by the perseverance and dedication it took for you to complete this program. As you start this new chapter, I encourage you to embrace the challenges and opportunities that come your way, you have the full support of all of your colleagues, supervisors, the Palm Tran family, and all of Palm Beach County. You’ve earned the right to wear that uniform and I have no doubt you’ll carry out your duties with pride and honor. I welcome you to team PBC.”

The graduates then were called to the dais to receive their certificate of training completion and have their photo taken as family members cheered them on.

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