Meet Crystal Hunter: From CareDriver to CareDriver Operations Manager

Crystal Hunter headshot
There are a number of things that led Crystal Hunter to HopSkipDrive, including her interest in the company’s mission, her understanding of the needs of children, her experience as a mom, and her desire to interact with and help people. 
After getting her first taste of just how rewarding the work we do at HopSkipDrive is as a CareDriver, she immediately knew she wanted to expand her involvement with the company. Soon after, she was hired as a member of the Safe Ride Support team — and her contributions to HopSkipDrive have continued to grow and evolve from there.

Where do you live and what do you do for HopSkipDrive?

I live in Glendale, CA, about 8 miles from HopSkipDrive headquarters. As a CareDriver Operations Manager, it is my responsibility to train and manage a team of exceptional front-line CareDriver Operations Associates, meet and exceed supply goals for my markets (CA/NV), and cultivate supply and meet demand for CareDriver onboarding needs. I also build and manage vendor relationships, and help CareDrivers become and remain compliant throughout the onboarding process, among other things. 
Most importantly, I make sure the work my team does is aligned with HopSkipDrive’s values while fostering a healthy and enjoyable work environment for myself and my direct reports (as well as other team members).

How did you hear about HopSkipDrive, and what made you want to work here?

In 2018, I was looking to transition out of the paralegal profession. I was really unsure as to what my next step would be. And then I ran across an online ad for HopSkipDrive. When I looked into the company, I felt compelled to sign up to be a CareDriver because I was really impressed with the mission of the company, and I liked the fact that it was started by three moms who were trying to fill a great need for kids in my community. 
I knew being a CareDriver wouldn’t be a long-time gig for me, but it was a great way to fill my time. Within a couple of weeks after having really rewarding experiences transporting kids to and from school, I wanted to learn more about the company to see if there were other ways I could be involved. I discovered there was a position open for Safe Ride Support Specialist, and I applied. Within two months of signing up to be a CareDriver, I was working on the safe ride support team. A year later, I applied to an open Operations Associate position, and was fortunate enough to be able to move forward into something new once again! 
At the end of the day, it was the work and the people (employees, CareDrivers, Ride Organizers and Riders) that reinforced for me that I was in the right place. HopSkipDrive’s values then and now are closely aligned with my own, and I love that I am able to have a career with a company that cares for people.

What did you like most about being a CareDriver?

I loved knowing that my purpose was, simply, to help kids. There was really nothing else I needed to think about other than driving safely and getting these young people where they needed to be on time. I really liked being a friendly face and a reassuring voice to help them start and end their school days.

As a CareDriver, did you have any special experiences with Riders that you can share?

My favorite time while being a CareDriver was during the rides I had with two specific kiddos — a brother and sister who were with a foster family not too far from where I live. It was a convenient ride for me, so I claimed all of the trips that were available. 
On our first trip together, they were pretty shy but seemed quite curious. I kept catching their eyes in my rearview mirror, so I told them some things about me, like that I am a mom and I told them about my kids. After a couple of rides together, they became little chatterboxes and we spent all of our time talking about their days at school, making each other laugh with silly songs — and I answered the many questions they came up with. I think we had about 10 or so rides together, and I still think about them often and hope they are doing well.  

How do you think your CareDriver — and caregiving — experience impacts the work you do for HopSkipDrive now?

I feel fortunate to have the insights I do from being a CareDriver and a Safe Ride Support Associate. I think those experiences are very valuable in helping me to make informed decisions about how to improve the CareDriver onboarding process. It is my job to help identify good fits, and knowing what the job entails from firsthand experience allows me to truly empathize with CareDriver needs and concerns. My experience as a CareDriver and caregiver together shape the way I interact with CareDriver hopefuls, my manager, my colleagues and my direct reports. 

Tell me about your educational background and your other career experience. 

I have a bachelor’s in marketing, but ended up in sales pretty quickly after college graduation. After doing that for several years, I transitioned into the legal field as a paralegal and notary public because I was interested in estate planning and business formation. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the best fit because I wanted to interact with people more, which ultimately led me to HopSkipDrive! 
While pursuing my B.S., I also took child development and psychology courses. I spent almost two years working in special education as a behavior interventionist for middle school and adult students at a school in Orange County. My empathy for the needs of children from all walks of life really blossomed during that time, and I knew I wanted to continue working with children in some capacity.

Have you or do you now do any kind of volunteer or charitable work?

When I have time, I volunteer with Akita Angels, a nonprofit Akita rescue organization. Akitas can be difficult dogs, due to their special temperaments. They can be a bit tough, to put it gently, and often find themselves in shelters because folks do not do their research before taking them into their homes. My Akita, Lola, is 5½ years old now and while she is a true Akita (stubborn and aloof!), I cannot imagine my life without her. With consistent love and support, they really become the most amazing companions.

What makes you uniquely suited to your role and/or HopSkipDrive?

I am a mom, and that is the role that is most important in my life. In regards to the responsibility we have as employees of a children’s transportation solution company, I know how essential safety is. I take the work we do very seriously, and I try to always ensure we (my team and I) are doing everything we can to find good fits for the kiddos who rely on us.

What do you love most about working at HopSkipDrive? 

Apart from the great work we do, it’s 100% the people! I can’t say enough just how much I love my team and colleagues. I feel fortunate to get to work with them each day because they have great energy and are always so willing to help out. They are also hard-working, motivated, supportive, positive and funny. 

Have you had any special experiences with other employees, CareDrivers or clients that speak to our mission or the kinds of people who contribute to it? 

Absolutely. One of my favorite things I did as a CareDriver Operations Specialist was own the in-person onboarding events (what we used to call orientations, but now call bashes). This gave me an opportunity to meet and get to know some of our CareDrivers. A few people really stood out because they shared their reasons for wanting to be CareDrivers. 
One lady who was a foster parent for many years had seen kids who came from some very difficult situations, including not being able to go to school because they didn’t have a parent/parents who made school a priority. These kids experienced learning difficulties, and they had a lot to catch up on when they were in her care. She expressed to me that, once they got older, she found herself wanting to continue to help kids get their education. She wasn’t a teacher, so when she found HopSkipDrive, she knew this was how she could do that. I thought that was incredibly resourceful. She was the epitome of, “Where there’s a will, there’s a way!”

Have you learned anything surprising from working at HopSkipDrive?

I’ve learned that a company led by people who really believe in a mission can make a tremendous difference in the lives of children and can inspire others to do the same.

What advice would you give to someone who may be interested in joining the HopSkipDrive team?

If you want a fulfilling career, put your best foot forward and let’s get to work!

What do you tell family and friends about HopSkipDrive?

I tell them that I love my job and that I feel really good about the work we do. I am proud of the hard work and dedication I see in my team every day, and I am grateful to be part of a company that is doing good in the world.

How important do you think HopSkipDrive’s mission is, and why?

Crucially important. “Creating opportunity for all through mobility” is more than just a statement on a Town Hall presentation deck — it is a truth that can be taken for granted. The difference between failure and success in the life of a child can come down to access to transportation to and from school each day. 
Every child deserves the opportunity to learn, to feel supported, and to have access to build relationships with teachers and peers. This is how they learn to interact with, and find their place in, the world. HopSkipDrive makes sure that happens for as many kiddos as possible!

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