Nakeisha Gathers

Northeastern Technical College

"We had more hands-on training because it was just two students. That made it really easy for us to learn."

My name is Nakeisha Gathers. I was working at the local Walmart store, and it just seemed like I wasn’t going to move up.. Every time I put in for a promotion, I got shot down. My boyfriend — who was already working as a truck driver for Walmart distribution — suggested that I get my Commercial Driver’s License (CDL).

He encouraged me to go talk to the CDL instructor at Northeastern Technical College, Mr. Vern Chavis. I found out the program was really affordable and didn’t take long. It was just a four-week class, and everything worked out in all the right ways.

What did you want to do when you came out of high school?

I went into the Job Corps and learned brick masonry, but it was so hard to get a job doing it. I searched and searched and looked and looked, and nobody would hire me. I ended up getting pregnant, and everything had to stop so I could take care of my kids.

What was it like being a single parent?

All I tried to do was make sure my two girls were taken care of the proper way. I’m all they had, so I decided, “I’m going to do this, even if it’s by myself, to make a life for us as of right now.” 

My girls’ father wasn’t contributing anything, and it started to get harder as my girls got older. Their grandparents were really helpful with babysitting, but as far as bills or money, I had to figure it out on my own. It was a struggle being a single parent.

Now that my kids are all grown, I decided it was time for me to try to do something for myself. That was one of the main reasons why I decided to go back to school and get my CDL.

Tell us about the CDL program.

When I went to NETC to fill out my applications, they told me everything I needed to do. I got my DOT physical, and then I studied hard so I could pass my permit test. When I passed the test, I started to think, “Oh, I might be able to do this!”

At Northeastern, it was just me and one other student in the classroom. We got the opportunity to really drive, and it was very exciting. We had more hands-on training because it was just the two of us and Mr. Vern. He made it really easy for us to learn.

Overall, it was crazy how fast things progressed. I stopped working at Walmart on November 1, 2019. My classes started November 4, and by December 4, I already had my CDL. By the end of December, I had a job.

I have stressed to some of my friends that this was the best move that I made. In my situation, at my age, I didn’t want to sit in school for four years. 

How did Northeastern Technical College support you while you were a student?

NETC was so amazing. The CDL course was only $3995, and the college put down $2000 in financial aid for me. I used some money from my 401k to pay the rest. It took a while for that check to come, but the administrator at NETC was really patient. She didn’t pressure me or anything — she let me continue on with the class, even though I wasn’t able to pay the balance until a week after I had finished the course. It just seemed like they were willing to work with me and help me as much as they could. 

NETC’s program is also a lot better than other CDL programs. Trucking companies may advertise tuition reimbursement options if you take their CDL course, but you have to work for them for a year or two to pay it off. They’re more expensive, and you don’t have any options. But when I got my CDL through NETC, I had the freedom to take it and get any job I wanted. I didn’t have to settle for whatever I was offered.

What do you enjoy the most about driving?

The independence. When we drive, we don’t really have to answer to a manager. We go to the store and the store’s employees unload it. They go in the truck, they unload everything, sign the paperwork, and it’s on to the next store for me. You don’t have anyone on your back 24/7 telling you what you need to do. 

And it’s good money. I’m actually able to save. It just wasn’t like that when I was working in the store. It’s really incredible to be able to really look in your bank account and see your accomplishments.