Luis Sanchez’s life was forever changed after he saw a flyer for Joliet Junior College’s “Driving America: One Veteran at a Time” commercial driver’s license (CDL) training program in the DuPage County Veterans Assistance Office last summer.
When Sanchez, a 28-year-old military veteran and Hanover Park resident, saw the flyer, he was finishing up his associate degree in criminal justice. After serving nearly 10 years in the U.S. Army and the Illinois National Guard, he was ready for something new.
When Sanchez got his associate degree, he applied for a job with the Illinois State Police. But after not hearing back, he remembered that flyer he saw in the veterans assistance office.
And as he thought more about it – he knew he could do it.
He already had experience driving larger vehicles in the military. And because JJC offered this special grant-funded program for veterans, tuition would be free.
JJC is one out of only six colleges in nation that allows veterans and their spouses to go through the CDL program tuition free, thanks to a $176,426 grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration the college received in July. The program, designed to train those with little or no truck driving experience, will save veterans thousands of dollars in tuition and provide them with a post-military career path. JJC hopes to provide 50 CDLs to military veterans or their spouses with the grant money.
Without the program at JJC, Sanchez would have had to go through a lengthy process through Veterans Assistance in order to go through the program. JJC provided the opportunity he needed to bring him closer to his goal.
Sanchez said he especially enjoyed JJC’s program because of the great instructors. He also appreciated on-the-job training in addition to the traditional classroom work.
“I really like driving and getting help from the instructors,” said Sanchez. “With their experience, every little hint or tip they gave really helped.”
Sanchez said driving and serving in the military are really two of the same, and both require discipline, communication, maintenance, and safety.
“Being in the military, communication and vehicle maintenance is very important, and your life – as well as the lives of others – depend on it,” he said. “Other drivers on the road depend on the discipline of truck drivers because as we see on the news, terrible accidents could occur.”
When Sanchez finished JJC’s program in mid-October, he took the Class A road test that would certify him as a CDL licensed driver. He was ecstatic after he passed.
“I was the second person out of two that passed the test in a class of six on the first try,” he said, adding that he hopes other veterans will take advantage of JJC’s CDL program.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, since 2010, careers in driving are expected to grow 21 percent until 2020, which is a much faster rate than the averages for all other occupations.
Now that he’s started a new chapter in his life, Sanchez is confident he can get a driving job, thanks to JJC.
“Luis’ story illustrates how valuable this CDL training program is in helping our veterans and their spouses prepare for a post-military career,” said Amy Murphy, director of corporate and community services at JJC. “We are honored to be able to give something back to those who have sacrificed so much.”
For more information about the “Driving America: One Veteran at a Time” CDL training program, or to apply, call 815-280-1429, e-mail email@example.com or visit http://www.trainingupdate.org/Pages/DrivingAmericaOneVeteranataTime.aspx.