Calgary driving instructor a go-to for female, Arabic-speaking newcomers

Nahed Alsayed taught all five of her kids to drive but says she decided to turn it into a career after her mother and niece were killed in a distracted-driving crash.

"I really care about being safe on the road," she said. "I wanted to implement this rule to real life."

She worked for years as an instructor with a driver-education company before deciding to take the plunge and start her own business: Clover Leaf Driving School, named for her love of plants and because it signifies good luck.

At first, Alsayed says her clients were mostly Canadian. But when more and more Syrian refugees began settling on the Prairies, she made a connection with the community by lending a helping hand.

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That's when she began to gain traction as an instructor who could not only speak Arabic, but also be a comfortable choice for women in the community.

"I find myself more and more involved in helping, especially women. I get a lot of phone calls from women seeking driving lessons," Alsayed said.

"I find it really helpful and exciting for me to be part of this community to help women who come to the province as a newcomer, help them to be independent."

She said when women make inquiries, their main concerns are being able to get around in Calgary and take kids to school while their husbands are at work.

"It gives them the chance ... to not rely on others," she said.

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Heba Younes has been learning from Alsayed. She's had driving lessons from Arabic-speaking instructors in the past, but says she's had trouble finding a female instructor.

"I feel comfortable with women," Younes said. "She knows what I am thinking when I'm driving ... women can be more worried when this is the first time driving."

She said with Alsayed, she completely changed her mindset about being on the road, and it gave her the confidence it takes to drive.

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Anna Pleshka doesn't have a car yet, but needed more independence and opportunity at work. And now she's able to drive as part of her job. She'd tried to earn her driver's licence when she was younger, but said the driving school she chose at the time didn't work out.

She decided to go with Clover Leaf because it was affordable and had good ratings online. And she wasn't disappointed, especially after she passed her drivers' test on the first try.

"I decided to stick with her; she was a really good teacher who was patient with me," Pleshka said. "She also knew exactly when I would be ready for the driving test."

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"I believe that I do have the passion for it, and people can sense that," Alsayed said. "I really like to help others in terms of achieving their goals. And I think without me helping others, I don't feel like I'm part of the society."

Alsayed says she's looking to expand her school and hire more instructors, especially from the Arabic community.

And, if possible, she's hoping to give women the option to provide for their families and gain even more independence with a job.