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CDL instructor teaching road rules and life lessons

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Inspiring Larry Mein 2

FREEPORT (WREX) — Larry Mein lived on the road for the better part of 30 years.

13 years of truck driving, 13 years with motor coaches and 15 years driving tractor trailer all over lapped through the last few decades.

The Iowa native knows everything about moving nonstop.

"I've worked on hog farms in Minnesota, farms in Nebraska, farms in Indiana," Mein said.

"In 1986, we moved from Nebraska to Iowa to Indiana to Illinois."

Always moving.

However, eventually the time comes to pump the breaks.

For Larry, that was about two years ago.

He decided he wanted to go from being on the road to showing others how to do it themselves.

That's how he found his way to 160 Driving Academy at Highland Community College.

"I was looking to get off the road. I didn't want to spend more time on the road. I applied with 160, they accepted me and the rest is history now," Mein said.

Larry is now a Commercial Driver's License instructor through the academy.

The CDL certification is one of many opportunities offered through the National Farmworker Jobs Program.

The program is completely funded by the US Department of Labor/Employment & Training Administration with help from the Workforce Innovation & Opportunity Act

The goal is to help farmworkers gain skills to get a job so they can support themselves and their families.

Larry is one option to help achieve that goal.

"We can bring people out of a disadvantaged situation, put them in a truck and they can make a good living and make their families happy.

Over the last two years, Larry has trained people of all walks of life, each with their own story or struggle.

One that sticks out to him is of a student named Stefan who leaned on Larry when he needed someone the most.

"I was training him and Thursday before 4th of July, his son had been shot," Mein said.

That Friday before he came back, I asked him what he wanted to do and he said 'I wanna get my class A license so I can bring my family out of Chicago and bring them out here to Sterling.' I said buddy we're going to do that."

The students get a lot more than just the rules of the road from Larry.

Recent graduates of the academy have nothing but positives to pour out about their teacher.

"If he's saying something, it's important," Brady Schlueter said.

"It's even things that can help you even if it's not truck driving. Life skills and things like that. He's just a great mentor to have."

"He's very intelligent. When you're driving down the road and you do something wrong, you know he's going to correct you. He's got so much experience," Garrett Schlueter said.

At the end of the day, it's all about the students for Larry.

He wants to see them learn, grow and succeed so they can live their lives comfortably and safely.

"Just to see what impact you can be in there lives. That makes it more powerful for me.

If you want to learn more or apply for the National Farmworker Jobs Program, click here.

If you know anyone else making a positive impact in our community, you can fill out a nomination form here or you can reach out to

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Evan Leake

Evan Leake anchors for 13 News Today and 13 News at Noon. Evan grew up in Darien, Illinois, a south-west suburb of Chicago. He came to WREX in 2017 and worked his way to the anchor desk in May of 2019. He coordinates both the Teacher of the Week and Inspiring 815 series for 13 News. You can connect with Evan at or Evan Leake on Facebook.

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