Toward the end of the 2019 school year, Jersey City father Norbert Sygdziak got a phone call from his son’s school district about an “unnerving event” that would require new bus arrangements.
The call prompted Sygdziak to think seriously about school bus safety.
He ultimately left his 19-year career in the legal industry to launch and take on a CEO role at RideAlong -- a child-oriented ride-share service with Jersey City native, Fateen Reid.
"Despite all the advantages we have as a society, most parents are still forced to place their children on yellow school buses with little to no information or understanding about their actual safety and in whom they are placing their trust," said Sygdziak.
"As I decided to start digging deeper, I saw that ride-share services in our innovation-driven society left the most vulnerable group behind."
RideAlong safely transports children to and from school and extracurricular activities. Each driver has a set route and operates a designated RideAlong van with between five and 12 passengers.
But unlike typical ride-share services like Uber and Lyft, every family working with RideAlong is assigned a specific driver they can get to know -- many of whom are retired police and law enforcement officers.
Plus, each driver works as an employee rather than an independent contractor.
"We invest thoroughly in our drivers," said Sygdziak. "This allows our parents the chance to make the driver an extension of their family, and our parents tell us it is like having a ‘personal driver’ to help."
Meanwhile, each of the approximately 50 drivers at RideAlong goes through an intense screening process that Sygdziak believes will become the "industry standard."
"In addition to our extensive and in-depth background check, drug test and field test, we have implemented our own random follow-up system throughout the year," he said.
"Each one of our drivers is interviewed, trained, and selected because they enjoy working with kids and have proven to be a positive, reliable and responsible adult influence."
After launching the business in August 2019, RideAlong has already expanded to 36 locations throughout New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Florida, the Carolinas and even Texas.
In addition to safety, part of the service’s appeal lies with its convenience. Parents are constantly connected to the driver during their child’s transport and can receive stop-by-stop notifications.
The company values inclusivity, and half of the members of the advisory board are women. This includes his fiancé, Christine Kennedy.
"We understand that inclusion, diversity and good corporate culture are the groundwork for success now and in the future," said Sygdziak.
Ultimately, Sygdziak anticipates a bright future for RideAlong. Short-term goals include expansion to other areas of Florida and the Southeast, as well as the Midwest.
"The word has spread quickly and demand is robust in communities throughout the country," said Sygdziak.
"We are truly excited about expanding and even more about making a difference for the families we serve."
For more on RideAlong, visit the website and Facebook page.
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