When he wasn’t in school, a young Antonio Banda would jump at the chance to ride alongside his grandfather while he drove his commercial truck making deliveries for his company across the country.

Banda, who is now a Donna High School 12th grader, said the memories of his trips with his grandfather remain close to his heart. “I was about seven years-old when I started traveling with my grandfather,” Banda recalled. “It was usually when I had time off from school and during the summers. I would love to visit and see places like Houston which I had never been to before. We also went to Albuquerque and states like Louisiana, Kansas and New York.”

Banda said the times he spent with his grandfather brought them closer together. “It was bonding time when we went on trips,” Banda said. “He would talk to me about all the buttons and gauges, and how to handle the truck in certain situations. He would say ‘always look out for others. You can be going the right way but others may not be, so you need to be observant all the time.’ I was so impressed with everything that I really started enjoying being out on the road.”

Banda never imagined that the lessons he learned from his grandfather would come in handy as a senior in high school. After enrolling in Donna ISD’s new three-month Commercial Drivers License (CDL) Program this school year, Banda became the first student in DISD history to complete the course and earn a Class B license. The program calls for a general knowledge test, basic skills test, air-brakes test and a pre-trip inspection. Banda found out this month (November) that he passed all the exams. He called his grandfather who was travelling up north to share the great news.

“The call kept breaking up, but when he finally heard me, he got emotional and started to cry,” Banda said. “I’m going to be able to get a job after high school and do something both my grandfather and I love to do. It made me really happy that I made him proud.”

With a CDL Class B license, Banda will be able to operate straight trucks, large passenger buses, segmented buses, box trucks and dump trucks with small trailers. His plans for now are to drive a truck for a couple of years and when he is ready, apply to South Texas College to secure a Diesel Mechanics certification.

“I’m really happy that I can actually enjoy working and not just have a job for the money,” Banda said. “I get to do something that pays me well and have fun doing it. I’m also looking forward to seeing the different states and going overseas. I’ll get to see places that they talk about but don’t get to ever visit. It’s going to be awesome.”

Donna ISD is the only district in the Rio Grande Valley to offer a CDL program for Class A and Class B licenses. “The demand for CDL drivers is higher now than ever, so this program opens up new doors to various employment and career opportunities across the country for our students,” Career and Technical Education Director David Moreno said. “This is just one of many innovative programs that we offer at Donna ISD and we’re excited about it.”

“I’d like to say thank you to Donna ISD for making this program available,” Banda said. “It’s been a great experience to be able to meet new people and be able to pursue a career that I’ve wanted for a long time.”