For DiaKeshia Brooks, a 2010 graduate of Rappahannock High School (Richmond County) and now a Westmoreland resident, Rappahannock Community College has allowed her to realize a dream that first captured her imagination when she was an eighth-grader. At that time, she had an opportunity to ride with a family friend who drove for MBI Trucking, a long-haul waste transporter firm; and, as she says, she “fell in love with the idea of driving trucks.”
Over a decade later, Brooks has just finished the tractor-trailer training course offered by CDS through RCC’s Workforce Development Office, and has succeeded in passing the DMV exam for a commercial driver’s license, Class A. This will allow her to drive a tractor-trailer, a truck and trailer combination, or a tractor-trailer bus, as well as all the vehicles covered under Classes B and C.
Brooks did not reach this goal without hitting a few bumps in the road. After graduating from high school, she had difficulty finding direction in her life, partly because she was hanging around with the wrong crowd. But four years ago, when she became a mother, her life turned around and her priorities changed. “I realigned my life,” she says, “doing whatever it took to take care of myself and my son.”
By a fortunate chance, Brooks was driving past the RCC campus one day when the electronic sign flashed a promo for the “Drive a Truck” program. Youth services case manager Frances Kenyear of RCC-Workforce’s Office of Career and Transitional Services helped her to work out the details of enrolling and taking the course. But due to many difficulties in her personal life, she found it a challenge to stay focused on the training and thought many times of quitting.
Both Kenyear and Brooks’s driving instructors believed in her, however. They were anxious for her to succeed and showed “tough love” by not letting her give up, motivating her to keep coming back and making the effort. “They encouraged me to stop saying I couldn’t, and instilled in me a belief that I could.”
CDS instructor George Hels considers it his job to get students to believe in themselves and stop being their own worst enemies. “My biggest challenge is not letting them talk themselves into quitting,” he says. Once he gets them past their initial fears, he can teach them what they need to know. He tries to keep the students relaxed and the classes fun so that they keep coming back; and his reward, he says, comes on the day his students show him the DMV licenses that prove they are truckers.
Brooks praises all her instructors — Hels, Joe Pugh, and Tommy Meade —f or their teaching, support, and continued belief in her. Now that she is so close to her dream, she wants to help other women to conquer their fears, take control of their lives, and move forward on their own. She shares her positive attitude through personal postings on Facebook, which have brought some very affirmative responses, and says that no matter what your situation, you can pursue your dream. “I want to be able to say ‘I did it’,” she says. “I want my son to be proud of me. I’m tired of being pushed around — I’m trying to be an independent woman.”