LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. — For most students, once they graduate high school they cannot leave the premise soon enough. For Lisa Whicker, this statement could not have been further from the truth.
Immediately after graduating from Laurel County High School at the age of 17, Whicker applied to be a bus driver in the Laurel County School District. A month later, she was driving her former classmates home.
“When I graduated, I guess I missed school. That’s the only thing I could figure out,” Whicker said. “I was a kid coming out of school going to take care of kids.”
Over the next 16 years, Whicker would faithfully shuttle students to and from schools across the county. For the majority of her driving career, Whicker would lay claim to the longest route in Laurel County, spanning from London Elementary to Laurel Lake.
“I had the longest route in the county for 12 years. I wanted close to the area I was raised up in. It was like 67 miles one way,” said Whicker. “I had wonderful kids because I grew up there and I was familiar with all the kids.”
During Whicker’s 31 years working in the school system, she would change her job title from bus driver, to cook, to eventually janitor. This allowed her remain close to the students and help raise her two sons, Ronnie and Coty.
“I had such a good experience with the kids that I went on into the cafeteria and driving the bus too. It was a part-time job, so (that meant) more money. It worked with my schedule and with the boys at home.”
Over time, Whicker stopped driving and became a full-time cook at South Laurel Middle School — a position that appealed to her love of cooking, she said. When the janitorial job eventually became available at the middle school, however, Whicker said she decided to pursue it for the extra hours and better pay.