front of a big rig

From tragedy and poor working conditions, to a better life with a CDL

  •   3 min read
Student Success

Life on the Eastern Shore might mean immense wealth, but for many, it is the daily grind of just getting by. Isaiah knows that grind well, and after tragedy and hardship – and then throw a pandemic on top of it – he knew he had to make a change.

A self-described jack of all trades, master of none, Isaiah grew up in the rural countryside of the Eastern Shore, where the biggest thing in the area was Walmart. Since he became an adult, Isaiah bounced in and out of two chicken plants for work.

“You work for what seems to be endlessly, relentlessly just to make sure you see a decent amount of money every week,” he said. “I’ve worked in 28-degree coolers, hanging cold birds on shackles, shipping departments, packaging, you name it. Yet, one thing I learned is that they care more about those animals than they would ever care about you.”

Unhappy at work, but punching the clock to pay the bills, tragedy struck his family. There was a car accident involving his father and uncle, and his uncle didn’t make it. That’s when Isaiah and his brother decided to change their lives. Following in their dad’s footsteps, the brothers decided to pursue their Commercial Driver’s Licenses.

But, supporting the family took priority, so he continued to work, and then the pandemic hit.

In April 2020, poultry plants were struggling. Isaiah was asked to switch departments, putting his health at risk working alongside COVID-positive coworkers. He refused and lost his job. He found a new job, but it was more of the same.

He decided now was the time, so he contacted CDS Tractor Trailer Training to help plan his way out. His plan was to take weekend classes and continue working. But his employer wasn’t flexible.

“They denied me and stated either I was going to work or go to ‘school,’” he said. So, he quit his job to train fulltime, not knowing how he would financially manage. Then, he met his career coach, Barbara Rang, at Eastern Shore Community College, who he refers to as an angel who helped him settle his anxiety.

“She was kind and very gentle through the whole process and understood all my adversities and hardships,” he said. “Barbara made sure I had fuel to get to class. My car broke down a few weeks in, and when I thought all was lost, she even helped me get my car fixed. She spoke with the auto parts manager to square misunderstandings away. I am forever grateful for the assistance I was given. It gave me hope in a place where it is a rarity.”

Isaiah also found guidance and support with the instructors, who kept him focused and comfortable while some training was done remotely. He went through the training and found himself on the other side – more optimistic and positive than he was going in.

“Though it doesn’t make me rich, and I still face many hardships financially, it does give me hope for a brighter future. For that I will forever be thankful,” he said.

If you’re looking for a way to move up or out of a hard situation, reach out to your local FastForward program to connect with a career coach to get started.