VC truck driving program helps single mother build new life
April 27, 2014 at 7:02 p.m.
Updated April 26, 2014 at 11:27 p.m.
After living in and out of women's shelters for 18 years, Melinda Bass knew she had to break that cycle and improve her life.
The single parent of three had lived in an abusive relationship and worked a series of minimum wage jobs.
Among the places she worked were a doughnut shop, meat market, animal control, maintenance at grocery stores, home health and housekeeping. She quickly discovered that making up to $8 an hour "doesn't pay the bills."
Her way out came when she spotted a Victoria College 18-wheeler advertisement showing available courses while driving through town. She asked a former student about VC's Truck Driving Program and sought information at the Workforce Solutions Golden Crescent.
"Lisa Boehm, with Workforce Solutions Golden Crescent, had told me about a female student who completed the course several years ago and is about to buy her first home," Bass said. "Lisa was friendly and compassionate. She sent me to Victoria College where I met Mary Pullin (VC Workforce & Continuing Education program specialist), who pointed me in the right direction.
Bass enrolled in VC's Truck Driving course and, although a bit intimidated on her first day of class, was immediately put at ease by her instructors, Clyde Revelle and Jim Symons.
"Being older and being a woman, I was a little more cautious than some students," Bass admitted.
She was also relieved to learn that tuition assistance from Workforce Investment Act funds would be available to her.
On the homefront, she received much-needed support from her children, ages 17-27.
"They knew I could do what I put my mind to," she said.
Bass credits her teachers and fellow students for a "great" training experience.
"The instructors are experienced, patient, and they make the material easy to comprehend," Bass said. "I showed up every day and got along well with my classmates. I would recommend this program to anyone."
Instructors regularly get calls from former students with questions or wanting some advice. The instructors are always happy to help.
She completed the seven-week training course, which included classroom instruction and behind-the-wheel driving-range activities, in March. She passed the Texas Department of Public Safety commercial driver's license driving exam on her first attempt.
Bass, who was born and raised in Onalaska, a small community near Lake Livingston, graduated from high school in 1982. Although she had never driven a truck, she chose the program because she enjoys traveling and being outside.
She has received a hazardous materials endorsement to her commercial drivers license, and completed safety training required by oil rig locations to earn a Rig Pass Homeland Security card. Bass is ready to work and is exploring several job opportunities.
"Now, I will be able to help my family and buy my Harley back," she said. "I also want to get land and buy a horse. I had to sell my Harley and my quarter horse."
Bass acknowledges the help she received along her path and wants to share her story with other women who have similar struggles.
"What I'd tell other women living in shelters is that options exist, they can do this, help is out there," she said. "You just have to have the right mindset."
Bass is one of 298 students who have completed VC's Truck Driving Program since it began in 2006.