Fir Grove staff members and student

From left: Becca Griffith, Xavior Riley and Jeremy Berliss. Not pictured: Kelly Thompson

After 22 years driving a school bus, Kelly Thompson received a helping hand when she least expected it.

Thompson was driving students home on March 4 when a situation on the bus started to escalate. For the safety of her passengers, she pulled into a parking lot.

What happened next astonished Thompson. As she entered the aisle to encourage her passengers to be calm, ninth grader Xavior Riley saw an opportunity to be helpful. The oldest student on the bus, he quickly rose and stood with her. She hadn’t asked for assistance, but the young man appeared and calmly persuaded his peers to listen and follow her instructions.

“I just felt like it needed to happen. I thought I’d step in and do something,” he said.

“It was a selfless act to help,” said Thompson.

When it was safe, she continued on her route. Everyone arrived safely at home that day.

Those who know the Fir Grove/Vista student say that he’s long had a positive influence. “Xavior has this gentle energy about him and has always been super aware and respectful of staff and students,” said teacher Becca Griffith.

“He’s a good leader,” added Thompson.

Fir Grove/Vista Principal Jeremy Berliss described Xavior’s act as creating “a positive momentum and positive change”—a change that continued to have ripples beyond that afternoon.

As the news spread through the school, other students began to reflect on Xavior’s actions, said Griffith. “They looked at him and thought, ‘That’s pretty cool. I can do that too.’”

Xavior’s grandfather, a former tour bus driver, also commended him. Said Xavior, “He said what I did that day, not many people did in his long career. And it made him proud. … That made me feel proud of myself.”

“When there’s a need, the human instinct to be a caring person really just comes through,” said Principal Berliss. “Xavior personified that. It’s really great to see.”

Added Griffith, “Fir Grove is a better place with him in it!”