Brandy Rodriguez inside her truck
Brandy Rodriguez was a jack of all trades before her marriage.
“I used to be a career woman.”
She was an insurance agent, financial counselor, and even an admitting clerk at hospitals. When the now 42-year-old Rodriguez married the only man she had ever been in a relationship with 13 years ago, things changed.
She became a stay-at-home mom for their then 10-year-old daughter and found herself in an abusive marriage. Her husband did not allow her to get a job because he didn’t want her around other men, Rodriguez said. Fast forward to 2019, her daughter is 23, she now has a 2-year-old son, and she escaped her marriage in the spring. It came at a cost, but Rodriguez was determined to do what was best for her and her son.
She became homeless, and stayed with a neighbor for a few weeks. She didn’t have a job or any money, all the while having to take care of a 2-year-old boy, alone.
She was forced to move back to her original home state of California with her mother soon thereafter. But after a few weeks, she returned to Arizona, as her daughter moved into a house in the small Yavapai County town of Paulden and offered her mother and brother a place to live.
Upon Rodriguez’s return to Arizona, she began receiving Cash Assistance through the Arizona Department of Economic Security and was inserted into the mandatory Jobs Program. In May, she met with Pat Aughe, an [email protected] Talent Development Specialist in Prescott Valley, and started over.
“The first time we met, I was a wreck. Just a complete wreck,” Rodriguez said. “I told her my story, what had happened, and that’s when she just looked at me and said, ‘What is it that you’ve always wanted to do?’ I said I wanted to get my CDL (Commercial Driver’s License) and she said, ‘OK, let’s see if we can make that happen.’”
“Pat is amazing. Sometimes I’d just [visit her] and she would just let me cry and vent, and she would just give me the biggest hugs and she would just make me feel so much better. She is always right there texting me, calling me, making sure I’m OK if she hasn’t seen or heard from me. She’s got the biggest heart ever.”
Once Aughe discovered what Rodriguez wanted to do, she quickly found CDL classes at nearby Yavapai College, asked the dean at YC to hold her spot, funded Rodriguez’s classes, and had her enrolled by June.
Rodriguez’s No. 17, BLA 12-wheeler dump truck
“I’ve always loved driving. I have a severe passion for driving,” Rodriguez said.
She went to classes in the morning, pick her son up from daycare in the afternoon, and they would both hop in a semi with a friend who helped her learn how to drive. She would even place him on the passenger seat, and she’d sit on the floorboard while learning the basics of driving the big rig.
She graduated with her CDL on July 19, 2019, and by the end of July, she was hired as a driver with Donaldson Trucking.
“This company has been amazing to me, even to take the chance on me. They’ve never had a woman driver, and I had zero experience. When I first got there, […] I would come in and say, ‘Good morning!’ and I say, ‘Okie dokie’ and ‘cool beans’ on the radio and some guys hate it, but I’ll actually catch some [of the other drivers] going ‘okie dokie’ too,” Rodriguez laughed.
Rodriguez is in a much better place now, having both her children under one roof and being able to save money. Despite being finished with the Jobs Program, Rodriguez still enjoys talking with Aughe, and says she is like the mother she never had.
“She is very, very happy now,” Aughe said. “She’s sure of herself. She’s always exhausted, but she’s a total turnaround, and she now ‘feels empowered.’ She’s an awesome young lady.”
If you see BLA truck No. 17 riding across Yavapai County, go ahead and give the truck a couple arm pumps. With a smile, she pulls the air horn every time.
To learn more about these resources, visit our Cash Assistance and Jobs Program page.
By Ben Flores