Peer-to-peer knowledge sharing is just one of the many powerful ways truck driving program students learn the trade. Instruction is delivered by a team of facilitators with a broad spectrum of experience, which allows the students to gain insights about the commercial driving industry from a wide variety of viewpoints. Hatcher reaped tremendous value learning from diesel mechanics, local drivers for private corporations, and drivers who worked in global training yards.
“It was amazing because you got different perspectives from everyone about where you could go in the field,” he said. “It was beautiful for me, from an experience standpoint. [You could] ask all your questions and get hands-on experience and a full understanding of everything.”
STLCC not only sets CDL students up to succeed in obtaining a commercial driver’s license, but in finding a pathway to employment. One of the greatest advantages for truck driving program participants is the expansive group of prospective employers eager to meet them while they are still in training.
“We had different recruiters come up and buy us lunch and just talk to us,” Hatcher said. “That’s networking. You’re already out there making contacts before you even get your CDL license. You have forty-five emails from people, and job offers. It is amazing.”
Beyond the invaluable resources offered by the College, Hatcher relied heavily on the support of his family to achieve success in the program.
“You have to think, I just got out of prison after ten years so I’m starting from nothing at all,” he said. “Luckily, I had family and support taking me back and forth to help me out to get me to the places I’m going and helping with the paperwork process. It was invaluable. A support system is so important, I think, for anybody from any walk of life. Especially when it’s positive support. Someone who wants to see you grow and aspire to your full potential. But even more so coming from my situation, coming from prison.”
Hatcher also admitted that, regardless of the backing participants receive from the College and their personal support systems, students need to dig deep within themselves and tap into their own perseverance to get through.
“[It requires] dedication above anything,” he said. “You have to be ambitious. You have to be dedicated. You have to be focused.”
For Hatcher, graduation was a much-needed symbol of his ability to start fresh, an opportunity to rise above a dark shadow in his past and get back on track to live the life he had dreamed of for so many years.
“[Graduating] felt amazing because being gone and away from society for that long, to get that license, to graduate from the program, it felt like I was doing the right thing. I loved it,” he said. “The SkillUP program and St. Louis Community College were the launching pad. Wherever I go from here, that was ground zero. That was my starting point. They’re not only giving you the funding for school but they’re handing you a whole career. I’ll be forever grateful.”
The SkillUP program is Missouri’s employment and training program for Food Stamp (SNAP) recipients. The program is funded through the United States Department of Agriculture, Food and Nutrition Service. The program is also funded through the Administration for Children and Families, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families block grant.
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The Missouri Community College Association is a statewide organization through which Missouri’s community colleges work together to advance common agendas. MCCA brings the state’s colleges together for advocacy, professional development, information, and collaboration.