There are not many people who have the ability to say that they have been at West Henderson High School since doors opened in 1961 and are still here. Doris Bencivenga is one of them.
Bencivenga was a freshman during West’s inaugural year, and left for almost 20 years after her graduation, but came back to be a custodian in 1985. This marks her 34th year at West.
“I’ve always been a Falcon,” Bencivenga said. “I’ve seen West change so much since I went to school here, but I still love it so much. There are so many good memories here that I’ve gathered over the years.”
Bencivenga was the lead custodian at West, and became a bus driver after the job was presented to her sarcastically.
“I started driving after complaining about my kid’s driver,” Bencivenga said. “I was asked if I thought I could do better and I said I could. I was asked to sign up for class the next week. I got my CDL (Commercial Driver’s License) on Oct. 3, 1985.”
Bencivenga was challenged to more competitions by her fellow bus drivers throughout her years, and said she remembers them fondly.
“One year, Dick Cunningham said, ‘I can wear shorts longer than you,’ and it was on,” Bencivenga said. “He laughed one cold morning about me going to get on a cold bus. At Christmas break he called it even; nothing was ever said that I couldn’t cover my legs. Little did he know I had a blanket to cover my legs.”
Bencivenga has seen former students from her come back to West to teach, including English teacher and journalism adviser Jason Livingston.
“There are several teachers who used to ride my bus,” Bencivenga said. “I’ve seen Mr. (Jason) Livingston the most, and he was an awesome student. There was never a problem with him on the bus and now he’s just a great example for other kids.”
Livingston said Bencivenga sets a good example for other bus drivers with her dedication.
“Growing up, I remember Mrs. Doris (Bencivenga) being very safety conscious,” Livingston said. “She took pride in keeping all of her kids on the bus safe and making sure that we were behaving. She checked up on us, she cared for us. Not just on the bus, but when we got into school, you really knew she cared about you beyond her bus route.”
Bencivenga said she has not experienced many discipline problems; students usually meet her expectations.
“It goes fairly well; most of the time I don’t have a problem,” Bencivenga said. “I set the rules for the kids on my bus at the beginning of the school year. I tell my kids every year that God has created each and everyone of us differently, and we are going to be kind to one another. For the most part, the kids listen to that.”
In December 2014, Bencivenga had a hip replacement surgery, but said the only thing on her mind was getting back to West.
“I was so depressed that I had to be out because I missed driving the bus,” Bencivenga said. “I would wear my bus-driving shirts to the hospital and then in rehab. It really helped motivate me to go come back. I did my therapy three times a day instead of two; I was out of rehab in eight weeks instead of twelve weeks. My doctor told me that he usually didn’t do that but he could see my determination.”
Though Bencivenga has been working at West for more than three decades, this year could be her last one with the Falcons.
“I usually say it’s up to God on how long I’m a bus driver,” Bencivenga said. “However, I’m expecting a second great-granddaughter in April, and I might decide that this is it so I can spend more time with her.”
By: Emily Mertz, Editor