He immigrated to the U.S. in 1979 and immediately began looking for work. He got a job at a trucking company, but wanted to learn how to drive, so he would park the trucks and taught himself. After failing the road test the first time, he eventually got his license.
“That was the time to practice,” he said.
For the next eight years, he worked as an electrician for the Board of Education, but he was laid off and was unemployed for two years. With two children, he knew he had to make money.
He began to drive his kids to school and many of their friend’s parents would pay him to take their children. Soon, he and his wife were essentially running a car service to make ends meet.
However, one day a Department of Transportation inspector stopped him because it looked like he was driving a school bus and gave him a ticket. When he went to court he said he was not trying to break the law, and the prosecutor gave him a card directing him where him he could buy a school bus.
“He gave me a push,” Gualotuna said.
Shortly after, Astoria Express Transit bus service was born. They began small with a few buses and today provide transportation for ten schools and the Variety Boys and Girls Club in Astoria. At first no one knew who they were, but today people sign up on the website and schools tell parents about the company.
Being able to provide a valuable service for the community and have families thank him for what he does is extremely gratifying, he said.
“This country gave me the opportunity to grow with my family,” he said. “I am an old person, but my heart is like a little kid.”