MISSOULA, Mont. — One Congolese refugee is making an impact on people’s lives in Missoula, simply by driving a bus.

Justin Kasali was recently named Mountain Line’s ‘Rookie of the Year.’

A lot of people learn how to drive in their teens, but not Kasali.

He and his family moved to Missoula in 2018, after spending 12 years in a Refugee Camp in Malawi.

He had only been driving for six months when his case manager in Missoula asked him to apply for a job as a bus operator at Mountain Line.

"I respond to him quickly, 'I can not be able to drive the bus because I don't have any good experience to drive,’” Kasali said.

On top of that, he would need to get a commercial driver’s license, which requires a written exam in English, a language that Kasali said he struggled with. 

"For my first time, I failed,” he said about taking the exam.

He had three chances to pass the test and with encouragement from his wife and case manager, he gave it another try. 

"And then I fail again, so I was disappointed,” Kasali said.

But like they say, the third time's a charm.

"I went there, I passed my last chance for the exams," he said.

It's his determination and his work ethic that Mountain Line's Director of operations, Jennifer Sweten, said made him 'Rookie of the Year.'

"Justin came to me one time with a complaint and the complaint was that we were just not working him enough," Sweten said.

Kasali said he loves his job and co-workers and has advice for anyone trying to reach their goals.

"Everybody was born with his talent and don't be afraid to achieve your talents or keep doing what you need to do and work hard. You'll achieve your goals whenever you have time," he said.

If you ever get the opportunity to ride his bus, he'll always be grateful.

"Thank you for riding," he said.

Kasali added that an unexpected outcome of working for Mountain Line is that he's able to help other refugees navigate Missoula, thanks to a job that requries him to know all the routes.


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