RW woman pursues dream of open road

DeAndrea Belton | Photo: Barbara Ball

RIDGEWAY – DeAndrea Belton says one day she just woke up and wanted something better for herself. So, she signed up for the Fairfield County government’s Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) program, received free training to earn her (CDL) commercial driver’s license, and got hired almost immediately as a truck driver.

Now she’s headed to Chattanooga, Tennessee, to pursue a dream that’s been marinating for a while – to see the country from behind the wheel of an 18-wheeler.

And the story gets even better – a friend and former co-worker at the Belk distribution center where she works in Blythewood, earned her CDL also, and the two of them are going to drive together as a team, working for the same company.

“I think it’s going to be kind of cool doing the over-the-road thing,” Belton says. “I’m going to be getting paid to see America on the road.”

She’s one of the recent graduates of Fairfield County’s workforce training programs who have had the help of the local WIOA program, which pays for training and support services like transportation and help with resume-writing to help them gain skills and jobs.

Robinson

Diana Robinson, Fairfield County program director for WIOA, says Belton is part of an interesting trend of opportunity. While truck-driving has long been a male-dominated profession, it’s seeing an influx of women like Deandrea.

“I talked to the driving school that conducted Deandrea’s training,” Robinson says. “He told me that his class that started on Monday has six females and one male.”

“CDL training is one of several high-demand career fields in which training is available through WIOA to Fairfield County residents who qualify,” Robinson said. “It’s a field that’s enabling local women and men to earn more money.”

For Belton, it’s been a step toward realizing a dream.

Growing up in Ridgeway, Belton says, her mom and uncles operated big equipment, and sometimes she and her siblings rode along with their dad in his big truck to nearby states.

She says she had been saving money for a while to follow in their footsteps when she found out about WIOA and applied. Once she got into the program, she completed her training at TDI (Truck Driving Institute) in less than a month and was immediately hired by Covenant Transportation.

And now that she’s trained in truck driving, she’s been blown away by the job contacts she continues to receive.

“It feels great,” she says. “It’s a good feeling. As opposed to me looking for jobs, now jobs are looking for me.”

Robinson says she’s proud of Belton and her friend – and soon to be driving partner, Tionna Hearon – for having the courage to pursue their dreams.

“Truly I’m proud of her, and I’m proud of all the young ladies that have been able to go through this training program,” Robinson says. “That’s all you need is to have that drive and make that decision and just take a leap pf faith.”

Belton says truck driving is something she could see herself doing for a while. For now, she’s starting with the lower 48 states, she says, but once she’s seen those, she’d like to see Canada and Mexico, too.

Her advice to other women who dream of the open road: Do something about it.

“I always tell myself I can do whatever I put my mind to. Only I can hold me back, nobody else,” she says. “Don’t ever be scared to try new things.”

Comments

  1. Marcus Polk says

    Good story. It’s nice to hear when people set their mind to improve their lives and succeed. Congratulations to the WIOA for being there to help them and other Fairfield County residents reach their goals. Enjoy your travels, Ms. Belton!

  2. Gawanda Gibson says

    Proud of you My cousin Deandra!! God is so good and merciful!! His grace is sufficient for us all!!! And always remember you can do all things through Christ Jesus who strengthens you! 👏🏾 bravo!!!

  3. Samuel Stokes says

    I work with DeAndre and while I’ll hate to see her, I have never been happier for someone as I am for her. I wish nothing but green lights and safe travels. DeAndre will be missed.

  4. Marilyn Canzater says

    Congratulations Dee!

  5. Gus Philpott says

    Congratulations to Deandre!!! Happy travels. Keep that dashcam on!

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