Felipe Begines has the kind of upbeat, sunny disposition that just makes you want to smile. And it’s no wonder. The 7-year veteran bus operator says working at VTA “makes me the best version of myself.”
“Since the day I started this job, I’ve loved every minute of it,” he says, “for what it’s done for me and for my family.” Begines came to VTA in 2012 after suffering a year and a half of joblessness caused by a layoff at the state prison system where he worked as a guard…for just one month.
A family friend, now-retired VTA Assistant Superintendent Cheryl Gonzalez, whom he describes as a “second mother,” recommended he apply at VTA. “She told me I’d never regret it, and 7 years later, she was right!” says Begines. “I find myself trying to make people happy about riding the bus.”
Driving out of the Chaboya Yard, mostly on the 42 or 64 routes, Begines says he loves seeing the same passengers year after year, watching the growth of the teens he takes to and from Silver Creek and Andrew Hill High Schools. “This job is personal for me,” Begines says, who enjoys playful banter with regular passengers, “Little things, that brighten up their day.”
It brightened up Begines’ day when his family attended the closing ceremonies of his 14-year-old daughter’s summer engineering camp for girls, to find the featured speaker was VTA’s own General Manager and CEO, Nuria Fernandez. “I was so surprised to see Ms. Fernandez there!” Begines said, as he excitedly asked for a photo of the GM with his daughter, who was a first year student of the program.
“We need women, particularly young women of color, to be part of this technical field to add their perspective for others in our society and our world,” Fernandez told some 80 high school girls participating in a program to encourage them to go into the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. Begines’ daughter, Angelina, a rising freshman at Christopher High School in Gilroy, aspires to become a stem cell researcher, and he says the VTA job provides a sense of security for his wife and three children he is grateful for.
A few months ago, Begines joined the VTA training department, helping to teach the ropes to new bus operators. “Felipe’s enthusiasm and positivity are contagious,” says Technical Training Supervisor Maurice Beard. “He’s always one to raise his hand first whenever I need anything done.”
“I plan on being a bus driver as long as I can,” says Begines, “and I want to help train drivers to make this transit agency that much better.”