From Bootcamp to Bachelor’s Degree: How a Student Veteran Found Community at CSUN

May 19, 2023

By: Riley Sullivan

Northridge—As a high school student with no desire to pursue higher education, Jimmy Guevara still wanted a challenge. He knew that after graduation he didn’t want to attend college, but little did he know that after years of active service in the Marine Corps, he would find his way right back into the classroom.

Jimmy Guevara Guevara, a former employee of California State University, Northridge’s (CSUN) student union, now works as a program manager for the Veteran Peer Access Network, an outside organization that provides veterans with extra resources beyond the Veterans Resource Center (VRC).

“CSUN has a plethora of different communities and they have to cater to everybody,” said Guevara, “When we come in, we do the extra of what the campus may not do.”

In 2001, Guevara graduated from Hollywood High School and enlisted in the Marine Corps. Shortly after completing his boot camp training, the United States was hit with a devastating attack on September 11.

He was stationed in Japan and then was sent to Camp Lejeune in Jacksonville, North Carolina. Four years after enlisting in the U.S. Marine Corps, Guevara was deployed to Fallujah, Iraq where he was stationed for a year.

While in the Middle East, Guevara noticed that the civilians within the country were very welcoming. After spending a day patrolling the area, he was invited into their homes and often fed. Guevara said that it was customary to always serve the guest first, so he and his colleagues would be the first to eat.

After completing his military service and joining the civilian workforce, Guevara realized that employers were not willing to promote him to supervisory positions due to his lack of education. 

“I kept hitting a barrier with, ‘You don’t have the education. You may have the experience, but we can’t trust you enough to get promoted to a supervisory role.’,” Guevara said.

With that, Guevara made the decision to hit the books.

As a military veteran, he was able to enroll in school and have his education funded through the government. First, Guevara attended Los Angeles City College and earned an associate degree. Then, he set his sights on a bachelor’s degree and landed at California State University, Northridge.

Finding CSUN was an intentional move for Guevara since, at the time, CSUN was the only university in the area to offer a Central American Studies degree path. While enrolled, he double majored in Central American Studies and Psychology.

During his studies, Guevara was a student veteran resource center assistant for the VRC. One of his roles was to bring in other student veterans who may not have heard about the resources available through the resource center.

To Guevara, working for the University Student Union brought back that same sense of community he once felt in the Marine Corps. For him, CSUN was not just a place to earn an education, but a place where advisors and mentors invested in him and invested in his future.

 “When I came into CSUN, it gave me that same feeling, again, of being part of something bigger than myself,” Guevara said.

For students now, Guevara emphasized the importance of perseverance.

“It’s okay to fail. It’s okay to start again. Go to a place where you feel that you’re comfortable and you feel fulfilled,” said Guevara. “Just be happy with what you’re doing, and if you’re not, maybe it’s time to look at what makes you happy.”

Jimmy Guevara with a group of CSUN Alumni