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Giving back to New York bus drivers

By Julie Hays, CNN
February 16, 2012 -- Updated 1645 GMT (0045 HKT)
iReporters Kathleen Fitzgerald and Lizzy Showman designed seat cushions for New York bus drivers to say
iReporters Kathleen Fitzgerald and Lizzy Showman designed seat cushions for New York bus drivers to say "thank you."
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NYC art students were assigned a project to touch a life through design
  • Kathleen Fitzgerald and Lizzy Showman designed seat cushions for bus drivers
  • Fitzgerald and Showman: Showing gratitude creates a better environment

(CNN) -- iReporters Kathleen Fitzgerald and Lizzy Showman are students at the School of Visual Arts in New York City. As part of a class project, they were challenged to see if they could touch someone's life using their design skills. Both commute by bus, so they decided to thank the bus drivers of the M15 route by giving them specially designed seat cushions.

On November 18, 2011, Fitzgerald and Showman handed out over 50 cushions, and Jeremiah Fabre captured the reaction. The team felt the project was a success and proof that small gesture can make a big impact. Fitzgerald and Showman shared their experience in this Impact Q&A by responding to CNN questions jointly over e-mail.

iReport: Giving back to the NYC Bus Drivers

CNN: How did it start?

Fitzgerald and Showman: This project was inspired and curated through Stefan Sagmeister's class "Can Design Touch Someone's Heart?" Our target audience was a group of people we did not know. After spending a few months together in our first year at The School of Visuals Arts, Kathleen and I found we both commute via the M15 bus line to school every day. The M15 is one of the busiest bus routes in North America, serving over 16.5 million commuters a year. The life of a bus driver is not always easy, making them our target market for this specific assignment.

CNN: Describe what you did.

Fitzgerald and Showman: The life of a M15 bus driver can go unnoticed at times, but a thank you is a start towards a better appreciation for their efforts and hard work. As graduate design students at The School of Visual Arts, we wanted to express our gratitude by creating custom designed butt cushions to help soften the ride for M15 bus drivers. We also invited customers and bus drivers alike to visit our social network site dedicated to the M15 line where people can share their thank yous and stories about their local bus commutes.

CNN: Why is it important?

Fitzgerald and Showman: This project is important because it extends a thank you to a group of people that is often unnoticed and under-gratified. This project also inspires others to extend a simple thank you or even repeat something similar. Our hopes in this project are to inspire other cities to do a similar project, creating a network and a strong social response.

CNN: How are you making an impact?

Fitzgerald and Showman: We have had great response and feedback from the community through our blog and on other sites like CNN's iReport. We believe it is giving people a second chance to thank their bus driver or other type of service workers. We are in the process of further extending this project out to the entire line of the M15 drivers (over 400 drivers), and future NYC bus lines. Find us on Kickstarter in the coming weeks to give us a helping hand.

CNN: Why should other people get involved?

Fitzgerald and Showman: We believe that by extending appreciation and gratitude to people that serve our community, it in turn helps create a better environment for us all. The bus community has relished in our recent attempt to create awareness and appreciation throughout, and we are determined and confident that by doing so, more commuters and cities will take a moment to share a thank you.

What are you doing to Impact Your World? We want to hear your story about how you or someone you know is making a difference in the lives of others. Go to CNN iReport for details.

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