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First Arab Muslim Woman gets CDL in Wisconsin

Posted at 4:52 PM, Aug 22, 2018
and last updated 2018-08-22 20:32:47-04
It's rare to see women behind the wheel of semis but there's never been an Arab born woman to drive a big rig in Wisconsin. That is, until now.
"I didn't have the chance to do too much in my life but when I got this chance, I said, OK. I can't let it go," Maysa Abu Khdair said. "I always wanted to be a truck driver. It doesn't have anything to do with money but because I want to achieve my dream."
It may not sound like every little girl's dream. However, for Abu Khdair, she grew up in trucks. Her father drove them in Palestine.

"My dad used to take me and all my siblings with him every time he'd get a load," Abu Khdair said. "I grew up between those trucks. I love trucks. I told my parents two days ago because I didn't tell them I started trucking. They were shocked and surprised but my dad was happy because he knows I love trucks. He was proud."

She's been in the United States for 14 years. She's now a single mother of three children. On top of getting her Commercial Drivers License, she is nearing graduation at MATC with a business degree, she works as a makeup artist, and has a daycare license to boot.

But when she's working on the truck or driving it, it's when she's most at peace.
"I love how it bounces on the road," Abu Khdair said. "You just feel like you are sitting in a big chair. You feel yourself, oh I'm a queen sitting on this chair. I love trucks. I don't know how to express my feeling when I drive but I feel confident."

Her confidence emanates through her as she shows other students how to do a pre-check on the truck. She calmly went through the 20-minute checklist, all in her head, explaining the thought behind each piece. It's something, male or female, that was impressive.

"She's showing me the stuff and didn't have a piece of paper," Arnold Jordan of Milwaukee said. "She started naming stuff from the engine and I'm looking at her like, she was pretty good at what she do. She is doing better than me right now."

Jordan has four daughters and hopes they can look up to Abu Khdair as a role model.
"I got girls," Jordan said. "I'd love to see them do some things that other people are doing. What the men do, the women can do."

In Abu Khdair's case, she does it better than the men. Her instructor says she has taken up truck driving better than most of her male counterparts.

"Quite frankly, she's embarrassed the male students," Robert Camacho, Instructor for 160 Driving Academy said. "She can do her back in skills and drives better than most of them."
But this is just in her blood. Since she's been away from home for so long, this is a way to connect to her roots and her family in Palestine.

"Every time I will be on the road, I will remember my dad and my siblings," Abu Khdair said. "[My dad] would be proud. I got my dream come true."

She says she's gotten double takes from people when they see her in her hijab behind the wheel of the semi. At truck stops, other truck drivers come over to her and ask her questions about how she got into this. She fields all of the questions because it gives her a chance to spread a message of empowerment.

"I had a police officer stopped in the middle of the road and looking like what the hell is going on?" Abu Khdair said. "A guy saw me driving and was surprised. It is just a dream. I want to achieve it. I’m not looking how people look at me as long as I’m satisfied. I have three kids to take care of so I’m ready to go on the road.”

However, she hopes she can inspire other women to do the same.

“[Women] can look at me like, she took the first step maybe,” Abu Khdair said. “They may be afraid to start it but I would say, if there are too many ladies willing to do it, especially from the Middle East. That should give them a start, I would say. Do what your heart tells you to do. Do what you believe in doing. Believe in yourself. Believe in what you want to achieve and just do it.”