First Person is a series that highlights the voices of Our People. This as-told-to feature is based on a conversation with an individual who has achieved success with the support of CITC programs and services. It has been transcribed, condensed, and edited for clarity.
I was working for Alaska Cleaners, but I took time off to go to school. I would love to work someplace like the Alaska Native Medical Center, driving Elders around to their appointments. I really want to focus on getting a job. That’s the reason I got my CDL.
A friend of mine, Dennis, told me if I could get my Class A CDL, I could get a good job. I came to CITC to see if there was any type of training available. I saw there were all kinds of trainings, including one to get your CDL, and I had always wanted to do that.
It took me a long time to get, just to pass the permit — that took a minute, the written test. I needed my permit before I could take the class down in Kenai. Once I passed, I signed up for school down there.
[Note: In addition to other training, CITC offers CDL training through Northern Industrial Training (NIT), but Angela was motivated to find a course that would suit her specific needs. CITC helped fund her tuition with Kenai Peninsula Driving Instruction.]
I thought the one on one training at Kenai would be better than learning in a group, and that’s the way NIT runs their classes, with five students and a trainer, all in the same truck. I didn’t think I could learn that way. The one-on-one instruction was better for me, since I was already nervous.
I didn’t want to let myself…down, and that’s what got me through it. I’m glad I stuck with it, instead of giving up.
I spent seven days down there for the training. CITC paid for school, and I asked my corporation, Aleut, to help out with housing, and I got a scholarship for that. I got a real nice apartment, and it was only four miles away from the school.
The biggest challenge for me was backing up with the trailer connected to the tractor. With just the tractor, it was no problem. But with the trailer on, it was difficult. Downshifting also took a little time to learn, but it all came together on the day of the road test.
It’s such a big responsibility — it’s a little intimidating. Backing up takes some talent. Some people can do it, some can’t. I ended up getting my Class B CDL with a passenger endorsement. I didn’t get the Class A that I wanted because I wasn’t comfortable enough. So now I can drive trucks without a trailer on the back. But I’m going to keep practicing, especially backing up, and I’ll go get my Class A.
The teachers at the school were really nice. There was a moment where I almost gave up. It was when I was trying to back up with the trailer. I felt under pressure, and I wasn’t getting it. I was really frustrated. [My teachers] all got together and talked, and the next day they decided to take the trailer off. The minute they did that, my whole demeanor just changed. I was smiling and it wasn’t as stressful. They really helped, by recognizing what I needed. It was really neat.
[CITC Training Coordinator] Laura Welles was the most helpful person because in the beginning, I wasn’t getting anywhere, and she went out of her way to help me out. I felt like I was at a dead end. She noticed that each time I was coming to CITC, I didn’t have a vehicle. So she helped me through it all, got me into my class. I really appreciate her.
Right now, I’m looking for work. I’m really focused on getting a job, although COVID is making it difficult, plus I’m fresh out of school. Dennis, who encouraged me to get my CDL, he’s helping me get a little driving time, so I can get some experience. I’m not ready to just hop in the truck and go — I need to get more experience.
It was his support, along with Laura at CITC, that really motivated me. Dennis and his partner, Cheryl, and my mom, Jeannie — those were the people I did this for. I didn’t want to let myself or them down, and that’s what got me through it. I’m glad I stuck with it, instead of giving up.