The Smith Family: Overcoming Transportation Barriers


Chronic absenteeism is on the rise in Indiana, largely due to pandemic-related out-of-school time that worsened long-standing educational inequities. Studies show that students who are chronically absent are at a greater risk of missing early learning milestones, failing classes, and not graduating on time.

A number of factors contribute to chronic absenteeism, but a lack of reliable transportation is one of the biggest barriers the families we serve face. Access to safe, affordable transportation helps families like the Smiths maintain strong attendance, participate in school meetings and extracurriculars, and make and keep important medical appointments during the school day.

We’re thankful to work alongside fantastic community partners like Indianapolis Public Transporation Fund, IndyGo, and Coburn Place to help keep Indianapolis families like the Smiths moving forward.

The Smith Family:

Lara and her two sons have been staying at one of our shelter partners and receiving support from Brightlane Learning since the summer of 2022. Lara doesn’t drive and relies on Indianapolis public transportation for all her and her family’s appointments, including making needed visits to the doctor.

At the beginning of the school year, Lara had to enroll her youngest son, 7th grader Ryan, in a new school, but there wasn’t an established bus route for Ryan. Through a grant from IndyGo Foundation, Brightlane Learning was able to help Ryan get to school until IPS could route a bus. These passes were also critical because the new bus didn’t always make it to Ryan’s stop during the first weeks of school. Many studies demonstrate that regular attendance is a key indicator tied to graduating from high school.

When Lara’s oldest son, James, decided to return to high school last month, he enrolled in Goodwill Industries’ Excel Center. With a single IndyGo day pass, he could attend orientation and meet with his academic advisors for the first time. Thanks to Indianapolis Public Transportation Foundation, this family of three was able to restart school, maintain strong attendance at a new school, and make and keep important medical appointments. This family is now at the top of a waiting list for housing and will likely secure a new apartment in the coming weeks thanks to the support of another Brightlane partnering organization, Coburn Place.