Every morning Jose Melecio picks up his first student around 6:15 a.m.

It’s a journey that ends at Ridgefield High School before the starting bell rings at 7:25.

But for Melecio, a bus driver for Ridgefield Public Schools (RPS), the ride is just beginning.

From RHS, he makes drop-offs at Scotts Ridge Middle School and then at Scotland Elementary School.

He’s gotten a reputation along the way.

Thoughtful gestures — flowers on the last day of school, personalized music selection on ordinary days — have made Melecio stand out in the hearts and minds of those he serves.

It’s a relationship that’s so special that he refers to his young riders as “his nieces and nephews,” and regards some of their parents as extensions of his own family.

“I have a parent that every other day she’s giving me breakfast or muffins,” said Melecio, who’s been driving for Ridgefield schools the past three years.

Surprise breakfasts make his mornings feel a lot easier, while music eases the kids into theirs.

“On the bus, they give me a list of music they want to hear, I record it on the phone and we’re jamming straight through,” Melecio told The Press.

It’s not all about the tunes though.

Every year on the last day of school, Melecio gives students flowers to express his gratitude.

“The parents are usually surprised — sometimes they’re not even on the stop so I send them with the kids,” he said.

“Last year, for my high school girls, I bought them flowers on the last day of school, so everybody on the bus got to take a flower.”

Ridgefield family

Melecio, who previously worked as a coach bus driver, lives in town with his wife and his three daughters — a 19-year-old who just graduated from RHS, a 15-year-old, and a six-year-old.

He wanted to spend more time with his family, and his wife convinced him to make the switch to driving a yellow school bus.

He loves his new job, and says the other drivers do, too.

“We adore all these kids,” Melecio said.

“Not only myself, but a lot of the bus drivers here,” he said. “We like to make sure they get home safe.”

While his popularity among the community continues to rise, there’s one Ridgefield student who doesn’t like riding Melecio’s bus: his 15-year-old daughter.

“My daughter hates riding on the bus with me because her sister drives,” he said.

“She prefers getting driven to school, and she’s already telling me her license is coming up.”

Strong bonds

Far from the license talk are Melecio’s elementary and middle school bus riders.

“My kids — those are the ones that make me laugh every morning,” he said.

“I got a young lady, Olivia, that’s amazing. Every time she comes in, she hits me on the arm or something and then goes to sit down.”

Melecio said each of the children holds a special place in his heart.

“Everybody has their own little attitude their own little ways,” he said.

“Especially my middle school kids — I have a whole bunch of kids that I love very much,” he said. “I get them pizzas or I send them up to the pizzeria and just have the stuff for them there.”

Paying it forward

Many parents have shown Melecio how much they appreciate him, with cards, Christmas gifts, and more.

For Melecio, the most difficult part of the job is saying goodbye to the kids each year.

“The hardest part is the end of the year not seeing these kids, and a lot of them moving on to the next grade,” he said.

But he manages to surprise the kids that move on from his route.

“Our manager is awesome she’ll let me take that one run and switch with another bus driver so I can see them once in a blue moon.”

Melecio enjoys his days laughing and joking with the kids — and their parents.

“It’s a great job, especially when you communicate with the parents,” he said.