Dromynique Chestnut ’19, at right.
Dromynique Chestnut ’19, at right.

Veteran Uses Yellow Ribbon Benefit to Pursue Dream Career

by Morgan Rogers

Dromynique Chestnut ’19 graduated high school unsure of what he wanted to do as a career. His family didn’t discuss college while he was growing up, so he went to a local community college without much thought toward his end goal. In search of a “fresh start,” it wasn’t long before he joined the Marine Corps with hopes of more clarity.

Chestnut served as an embassy duty security guard in Monterey, Mexico; Paris, France; and West Africa over the course of five and a half years. During that time, he was inspired by his fellow servicemembers, many of whom worked to further their education in their free time. He began taking classes online, increasing his workload each semester. When he expected that he would be released from the military, he looked into schools where he could pursue a degree in criminal justice and play football again.

Azusa Pacific not only offered the opportunity to participate in both pursuits, but its Yellow Ribbon benefit also allowed him to go after his dream career completely debt-free. With the collaborative support of the Office of Military and Veteran Education Benefits and APU’s former head football coach Victor Santa Cruz, Chestnut enrolled at APU, joined the football team and entered into a new life chapter.

Chestnut welcomed the familiar routine of football as he returned to civilian life, a process that can be difficult to navigate. His new coach and teammates offered a camaraderie and team atmosphere that he could easily adapt to.

“The discipline and structure we provided in the program I think helped his transition,” said Santa Cruz, whose personal familiarity with military life provided a deeper understanding of where Chestnut was coming from. The APU football team and coaches welcomed him in, offering a tightly knit brotherhood that supported him on and off the field.

“When I was doing online school, and a little bit of high school and junior college, things were okay,” Chestnut said. “But when I got here, things got a lot better. I even made the honor society within my program’s department. Things were looking good.” His newfound successes also brought new challenges and struggles. Balancing academic responsibilities with his life as an athlete was draining.

“It weighs on you when you have homework, football, and film sessions, and sometimes work… Honestly, it’s one of the hardest things, but it makes getting your degree so much sweeter,” he said.

With the excitement of graduation and a prospective career with a local police department on the horizon, Chestnut is grateful for the veteran benefits and support he received at APU, which helped him to pursue his passions and complete his degree at the same time.

Morgan Rogers is an editor in the Office of University Relations.