DMC Transportation Training Services Graduate Ashley Leiva Wins National Transition Trucking: Driving for Excellence Award for Veterans
U.S. Army veteran was one of 11 and only female finalist for 2022 award; Announcement made by U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s Hiring Our Heroes in Washington, D.C., on Dec. 16
Article by Melinda Eddleman
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s Hiring Our Heroes Program announced the winner on Dec. 16 in Washington, D.C. The finalists all waited to hear who was the recipient of the 2022 Transition Trucking: Driving for Excellence Award after thousands of nominees had been narrowed down to only 11 during the selection process.
That winner turned out to be Ashley Leiva, age 36, who completed Del Mar College’s Transportation Training Services Program in November 2021 even though she already held her Commercial Drivers License through the U.S. Army.
I was in shock. There were eight others [the award] could have been [given to]. My family was there with me for support, and once they called my name, we were all in shock. It was like winning the lottery.
And, she did hit the jackpot.
Not only did Leiva receive the 2022 award but also a $155,000 Kenworth T680 Next Gen Truck, fully-equipped for comfort and safety as a head start to her entrepreneurial career. Leiva, who now owns with her brother their late mother’s trucking company, also received a full scholarship that will cover the cost of pursuing a degree. She plans to continue her entrepreneurial endeavor by earning a bachelor’s degree in business management.
The Transition Trucking initiative began in 2016 and is part of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s Hiring Our Heroes Program in collaboration with Kenworth and FASTPORT to address the driver shortage and create immediate jobs for the nation’s transitioning military personnel, including veterans, national guard members and reservists in the trucking industry. And, the year-long search for America’s “top military rookie driver” culminated with voting ending Nov. 11 (Veterans Day) among the top 11 individuals selected from thousands of nominees with Leiva included among those finalists.
Leiva’s nomination, along with one for her brother Johnny Leiva, age 32, was made by the director of the College’s program that trains Coastal Bend residents to become truck drivers, including veterans who make up about 5% of each class. Criteria for the final selection included each candidates’ successful transition from military service into civilian life as a truck driver and their focus on safety in the profession.
The siblings’ nominations were the third time that the College had submitted program graduates’ names for the award and the second time a DMC nominee made the semi-finals.
“Honestly when I found out Lynette nominated us, I initially thought the award was related to a competition within Del Mar College,” said Johnny Leiva. “But after I looked it up, I realized this was a national award and was very surprised and honored we were nominated for something of this nature.” He was also in Washington, D.C., to support his older sister during the award announcement.
Lynette Redding-Cervantes, Director of DMC Transportation Training Services, added, “I decided to nominate Johnny and Ashley because both exhibited excellent communication skills, as well as encouraged their fellow classmates during training.” She noted that Johnny helped classmates when performing vehicle inspections and backing maneuvers while Ashley was a born leader and helped her classmates throughout her classes.
She was basically the class cheerleader.
Both siblings served with the U.S. Army––Johnny as an Army Specialist in Infantry and sister Ashley as an Army Sergeant First Class. Her 15-year career serving her country took Leiva on deployment to Iraq twice, and she served as Senior Culinary Management NCO, overseeing daily operations for dining facilities at locations across the United States and abroad during her service.
Circumstances brought the two closer together as co-owners of their late mother’s trucking business. She died from cancer in 2021, which initiated Ashley Leiva’s retirement from military service earlier than she expected. Regarding this move, Johnny Leiva, noted, “I know my mother is proud of us and what we have accomplished for ourselves and with continuing her legacy.”
Last month on Nov. 15, the Corpus Christi City Council presented Leiva with a Certificate of Commendation for being one of the 11 finalists prior to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s award announcement. (Access the release with more information about Leiva.)
Of Leiva winning the Transition Trucking: Driving for Excellence Award, Redding-Cervantes, said, “When I heard Ashley’s name called, I screamed and clapped so hard that I hurt my hands. But, when Ashley mentioned that I was her mentor, I broke down. THAT is the most humbling of all.”
Del Mar College empowers students to achieve their dreams. We offer quality programs, individual attention, outstanding instruction through faculty with real-world experience and affordable costs to credit and noncredit students in Corpus Christi and the South Texas Coastal Bend area. Nationally recognized while locally focused, we’re ranked in the top two percent of community colleges in the country granting associate degrees to Hispanic students (Community College Week). Del Mar College focuses on offering our students programs that match current or emerging career opportunities. Whether students are interested in the fine arts, sciences, business, occupational or technical areas, students get the education they need for the future they want at Del Mar College.