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Shaw, Georgia Northwestern Trucker Among Nation’s Elite

Mendez Places Nationally In Competition For America’s Best Commercial Trucker


“Dalton, Georgia’s Antonio Mendez sits in his tractor cab on the driving range at Georgia Northwestern Technical College’s Walker County Campus. Commercial Truck Driving Director Robert Browder stands outside the rig.”


(Northwest Georgia) – Hard at work since the age of 17, Dalton, Georgia’s Antonio Mendez has been leading by example. And now, after 20 years of what his boss calls, “consistency,” Mendez made 2016 a year he would showcase his talents on the national stage. This long-time Shaw Industries staffer, and graduate of Georgia Northwestern Technical College, became one of the top commercial truck drivers in the nation after competing in the 2016 National Truck Driving Championships in Indianapolis, Indiana.


In May, at the state competition held in Lake Lanier, Georgia, Mendez became the first State of Georgia Truck Driving Champion from Shaw Industries, as well as Georgia Northwestern. Mendez bested 40 drivers in the Commercial Truck Driving Five-Axle competition to earn the spot in the national competition in Indiana last month.


Shaw Industries Driver Training Lead, George Gazaway, said he knew he was good enough to go far in the competition. “Antonio competed for the first time last year and really walked away learning a lot,” said Gazaway. “Just one year later, not only did he set the bar for our drivers with his performance nationally, he really made us proud.”


In his second crack at showing off his skills in the Commercial Truck Driving industry, Mendez not only took home top honors in the state, be he would finish 29th in the nation after completing the four-day long competition in the Hoosier state last month. “There were six different road tests, a pre-trip test, and written tests they put everyone through,” said Mendez. “I felt really prepared and ready for the competition. It went pretty well, I think.”


After spending the first 10 years of his employment with Shaw Industries as a forklift operator, Mendez made a decision in 2008. He wanted to learn more and move into a new career with the flooring giant. “My uncle suggested that I should try to get outdoors and look into becoming a truck driver,” said Mendez of his uncle, Joel Quintero. “So, I made the decision to take the Commercial Truck Driving program at Georgia Northwestern. My instructor (Robert Browder) was very easy to learn from. He helped me learn everything I needed to in order to be successful.”


Mendez would complete his program with Browder and Georgia Northwestern by attending a weekend program the college offered. He would then earn his Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) later in 2008. Mendez would first spend a little over a year after earning his CDL transporting trailers from one bay to another at his plant. “I was a yard dog, at first,” cheerfully added Mendez. “Then, I got a third shift slot as a local driver with Shaw. And, now, I’m on first shift. Two daily runs to Chattanooga and back. It’s a great job that I’m proud of.”


His success has led to more success for others in his family. “I got my cousin to attend after I completed my program,” said Mendez. “He finished the program, too. He then came back and enrolled in the Air Conditioning Technology (HVAC) program. My brother then enrolled and did the same program, too. It has really worked out pretty well for all of us.”


It will officially be 20 years of Shaw Industries employment for Mendez in June 2017. He and his wife, Yolanda, have been married for 14 years. As of today, none of their children, Celina, 12, Antonio, Jr., 10, Angel, 6, nor Samuel, 4, wish to be a truck driver in the future. “They like those hot wheel trucks, though,” said Mendez. “But, they aren’t thinking about a job on the road anytime soon.”


Making a change in his career after a decade of experience was tough says Mendez. “Just thankful for my wife, mom, and brothers for supporting me in this,” added the 35-year-old North Georgian. “Family at work also made it possible, though. If it wasn’t for my boss, George Gazaway, Danny Trammell, and Misty Hayes, not sure how it all would’ve turned out.”


You can contact the college’s toll-free number at 866.983.4682 (GNTC). For information online, visit them at, as well as on their Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Google+, WordPress, and YouTube channels. GNTC is a unit of the Technical College System of Georgia (TCSG) and an equal opportunity institute.


Since 1962, Georgia Northwestern Technical College has provided degrees, diplomas, and certificates in business, health, industrial, or public service career paths. This past year, 13,734 people benefited from GNTC’s credit and noncredit programs. With an annual credit enrollment of 7,876 students, GNTC is the largest college in Northwest Georgia. GNTC has an additional enrollment of 5,858 people through adult education, continuing education, business and industry training, and Georgia Quick Start.


Hitting The Highway After Roughing The Roads Of Life

LaFayette’s Gamble Turns GED Into Career

"Lamar Gamble of Lafayette is a graduate of the Youth Success Academy's GED® program and Georgia Northwestern Technical College."
“Lamar Gamble of Lafayette is a graduate of the Youth Success Academy’s GED® program and Georgia Northwestern Technical College.”


(Walker County, Georgia) – Four years after he saw his high school career end as a freshman, LaFayette’s Lamar Gamble has turned his rocky road into a new highway towards a career. Just six months after enrolling in Georgia Northwestern Technical College’s Youth Success Academy (Y.S.A.), Gamble has earned his GED®, his Commercial Truck Driving certification, and a brand new career with U.S. Xpress. The entire six-month process from GED® to college certificate to a career was completely paid for by the Y.S.A.

“I would stay up all night doing homework that I didn’t have to do,” said Gamble. “I did it because I knew, in the long run, that putting forth that extra effort would get me closer to my goals.”

Gamble, who left his Northwest Georgia high school in 2011, returned to complete his education, as well as further it, in April of this year. He would then complete his GED® testing just one month later, all paid for by the Youth Success Academy. Then, thanks in part to the Academy’s Individual Training Account (I.T.A.) program, Gamble enrolled in the college’s Commercial Truck Driving program with his tuition, costs, books, and supplies completely paid for.

“We look at the situation of each student and see how we can make resources available to help them be successful,” said Georgia Northwestern Technical College Youth Success Academy Specialist Tammy Pence. “Being there to help them overcome any struggles so they can set and reach goals is what we hope to accomplish.”


The Youth Success Academy site at GNTC’s Walker County Campus first opened 10 years ago. Funding for the program is made possible by the Northwest Georgia Regional Commission (NWGRC) in Rome, Georgia.

For more information on the Youth Success Academy, GED® testing, or enrolling at GNTC, you can call 706.764.3783. You can also visit on the Internet. Also, Georgia Northwestern can be found on Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Google+, WordPress, and YouTube. GNTC is a unit of the Technical College System of Georgia (TCSG) and an equal opportunity institute.

Since 1962, Georgia Northwestern Technical College has been instrumental in providing quality workforce education to the citizens of Northwest Georgia. The mission of Georgia Northwestern Technical College is to provide accessible, high quality technical education and workforce development opportunities.  Serving the nine counties of Catoosa; Chattooga; Dade; Floyd; Gordon; Murray; Polk; Walker; and Whitfield, GNTC has five convenient campus locations in Floyd, Gordon, Polk, Walker, and Whitfield counties. With programs of study in business, health, industrial, and public service available, students have the opportunity to earn an associate’s degree, diploma, or a certificate from GNTC.  This past year, 14,562 people benefited from GNTC’s credit and noncredit programs. With an annual credit enrollment of 8,249 students, GNTC is the largest college in Northwest Georgia and the fifth largest technical college in the state of Georgia. GNTC has an additional enrollment of 6,313 people through adult education, continuing education, business and industry training, and Georgia Quick Start.

GNTC Truck Drivers Help Out, Hit The Road

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Georgia Northwestern Technical College’s (GNTC) commercial truck driving students volunteered their time and services to help the Habitat for Humanity HomeMart. The students, along with their instructor Robert Browder, drove from Rock Springs, Georgia to Atlanta early in the morning to pick up approximately $65,000 worth of home goods that were donated by an Atlanta company. The students delivered the items to the HomeMart location in Rome, Georgia that afternoon.


“I think it was a good experience for the students to be able to actually pick-up and deliver a load to a customer,” stated Robert Browder. “It allows the student to get a feel of what truck driving is like in the real world. I also feel it is important for our college and students to help people in need such as the tornado victims.”


Those students that volunteered include Charles Wooten, Joseph Cooper, and Jared Warren.


Habitat for Humanity is a non-profit organization with the mission to eliminate poverty housing and homelessness from the world. With nearly 2 billion people around the world living in low-income housing and over 100 million that are homeless, Habitat build’s homes that are simple, decent, and affordable for low-income families around the world.

The Rome and Floyd County Habitat for Humanity HomeMart is dependent on the donations of furniture and other home goods from businesses and individuals. The HomeMart resells the new or used items (as well as corporate donations) for 50 percent to 90 percent off retail prices. All operating profits from HomeMart sales go into Habitat’s building program, helping provide adequate housing for Rome families.

“HomeMart is supported by volunteers who work with us in many facets,” commented Louise Branham, HomeMart employee. “It is through our donations and our volunteers that we are able to support the Rome and Floyd County Habitat for Humanity.” 

To find out more about HomeMart or how you can be a volunteer like GNTC, visit

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