Red Road Driving School: On the road to opportunity and empowerment

Red Road Driving School is a business led by members of the Seabird Island Band, a rural community of roughly 800 inhabitants located three kilometres east of Agassiz, British Columbia.

The school provides a valuable service in British Columbia's Upper Fraser Valley region. It has enabled members of the Indigenous community of S'ólh Téméxw on the Stó꞉lō Traditional Territory, as well as people from off-reserve communities, to get their driver's licence. This has improved their mobility and increased their access to educational opportunities, travel and jobs.

Bridging gaps: Driver education in rural communities

Red Road Driving School's founder, James Harris, received business startup assistance and developed a business plan through Community Futures. Funding for Community Futures British Columbia is provided by PacifiCan, the Government of Canada's economic development agency for British Columbia. This collaboration laid the foundation for James's vision by guaranteeing the initial startup costs and providing an additional six months of financing.

"Without the support and funding of Community Futures, I don't believe I would have started the driving school," shared Harris. "They helped me bring it from an idea to what it is today."

James now had the means to acquire a specialized training vehicle, complete with instructor controls on the right-hand side. The driving school was positioned to offer training for class 4 (commercial vehicles seating a maximum of 25 passengers)and 5/7 (cars trucks and SUVs) licences and serve rural Indigenous communities that previously lacked access to this type of education.

James Harris, owner of Red Road Driving School, driving a car

"I noticed that a lot of our communities had buses but no drivers. Shortly after receiving assistance, I asked for help in purchasing a 21 passenger bus so I could offer lessons for the class 4 unrestricted licence."

James Harris, owner of Red Road Driving School

Driven to do more, James expanded the business's services by purchasing a 21-passager bus. This new acquisition opened up an additional revenue stream for the school through bus driver training and addressed a clear market need to bring new opportunities to community residents.

"I noticed that a lot of our communities had buses but no drivers," says Harris. "Shortly after receiving assistance, I asked for help in purchasing a 21-passenger bus so I could offer lessons for the class 4 unrestricted licence."

Red Road's continued journey

The positive impact of the driving school's operations has extended beyond Seabird Island. Red Road has secured contracts for bus tours and now connects communities from Yale to Vancouver.

Through this initiative, Red Road Driving School not only fulfilled the need for driving instruction but also sparked change in the community, fostering self-reliance and paving the way for new economic opportunities for the region's inhabitants.

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