Photo courtesy of Melvin Mitchell

Thunder VOTE Spotlight: ‘Be an Advocate’

OKC Public Schools special education lift bus driver registers to vote for the very first time.

There are few who understand their cities like bus drivers. Similarly, there are few who understand students like educators. Combine the two and you have people like Melvin Mitchell, a 20-year employee of Oklahoma City Public Schools who has spent a dozen of those years joyfully driving across the city as a special education lift bus driver.

For 12 years, the man known famously among students as Mr. Mitchell has had a front-row, first-hand view of nearly every corner of his city and has seen each neighborhood and community grow and evolve through the window of his bus. It wasn’t until recently, however, that the beloved bus driver made the decision to register to vote and make his voice heard for not only his city and country, but also as a voice for his students whom he works with every day.

“It makes me feel good just knowing that I actually have some type of power to say what goes on in our American life,” said Mitchell after filling out his first-ever voter registration form.

A true Oklahoman, Mr. Mitchell grew up in Spencer, graduated from Del City High School and attended college at historic Langston University studying elementary education. He then joined the OKCPS staff in 1999 as a Class Size Assistant before making the switch to bus driver. All the while, he has tried to radiate positivity in order to hopefully inspire and empower his students to aim high.

“It’s rewarding to me because I didn't have much to grow up with as positiveness around my area or my city,” said Mitchell. “So I think now my main focus is to make the kids feel like they can be anything and do anything that they want to do in life.”

Over the years, he has developed a genuine bond with his students and sincerely loves his work as a lift bus driver. When asked if any particular student has stood out from his time at OKCPS, he nearly teared up with emotion thinking about all of the meaningful lives he has encountered. He cited a particular student in a wheelchair who changed his life and inspired him from the first moment he met her just from seeing her grateful perspective on life.

“It's so rewarding to know that somebody else might not have the same lens as you, but they still focus on everything being right, and they're so thankful for what we have in life,” said Mitchell. “They just really give me hope and give me passion to keep going and I just hope that they keep going as well. We can keep going together.”

After 12 years of service, Mr. Mitchell has learned that the simple formula for spreading positivity and empowerment to his students boils down to three main elements: “I actually just try to give love for one,” said Mitchell. “Give them knowledge as much as I can and just be an advocate to someone who wants to be productive in their life.”

Now as a registered voter, Mr. Mitchell’s power of advocacy expands beyond the limits of his lift bus and can now reach the ballot box. With his vote, Mr. Mitchell hopes to be a voice for the students he works so hard to empower each day as well as the community he has called home his entire life.

"It makes me feel good knowing I have power to say what goes on in our American life."

-Melvin Mitchell


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