A bend in the road isn’t the end of the road … unless you fail to make the turn. – Helen Keller

The road to independence is sometimes bumpy, but traveling it is always worth it- just ask College Experience graduate Danielle Passariello. After many years of bumps, bends, and yield signs in the road of life, she has achieved a milestone in her quest for independence – she earned her driver’s license.

Learning to drive has been one of a variety of goals Danielle was determined to achieve. Along the way, she attended and graduated from Living Resources’ College Experience program (CEP), which took much of her focus for two years. As a part of the CEP curriculum, she learned to navigate the CDTA bus system, allowing her to explore the region independently. The goal of driving was paused since, as she said, “I really didn’t need a license.”

Since her graduation, Danielle’s journey towards independence has been supported by Living Resources Transitions and Employment Services programs. With their support, she maintains an apartment and holds down a job at Burlington Coat Factory where she works four days a week. With all this going on, you might think that Danielle would not have time to learn to drive, but she was determined.

In 2021, Danielle’s permit expired, which galvanized her resolve. She said that re-taking her permit test was actually a positive thing since it reminded her of the many rules of the road. She began taking lessons from a local driving school and in September she was ready to take her test. She easily scheduled and took her 5-hour course, but her road test was a different story. The Department of Motor Vehicles was backed up and the first available test wasn’t until December. Frustratingly, she had to wait.

When Danielle’s testing day arrived, she was understandingly nervous. Her stress only increased when she didn’t get her result immediately after the test, but was told she would have to go online with a code to learn her fate. At long last, she found out that she passed. She recalls, “I was shocked. I passed my road test on the first try! I was jumping in the air! Most people get their license at 17, but I am proud of getting it at 23.”

Danielle hasn’t driven completely on her own yet, but when she does, she says she will start with short trips first. Just the knowledge that she has a license makes her feel more independent, more adult. She knows she has plenty of other transportation options such as bus, STAR, and Uber. She will use each method strategically, because, as her CEP instructor Dom taught her, “You don’t have to drive the car everywhere. It can be a waste of money to park places.”

Having an apartment, job, and now a drivers’ license, Danielle knows she has crossed a bridge into independence and that slow and steady always wins the race.