Grad student demonstrates bravery and determination, both on and off the battlefield
After he gradated from high school, Peter D’Andrea enrolled in a community college in his native New Jersey with the hope of eventually transferring to the Virginia Military Institute (VMI). But, like so many others across the country, it didn’t work out and during the first semester, he dropped out. One recent study shows that over 90 percent of community college students stop at some point, and the longer those students pause their education, the less likely they are to earn a degree.
“I was young – I didn’t have enough discipline to make college work,” he recalls. “It just wasn’t my thing… the teachers were not energetic. The place had no life to it.”
But D’Andrea was determined not to become another drop out statistic. “I realized I was going nowhere fast,” he said. “So I decided to join the U.S. Army.”
He enlisted and would serve eight years in the Army Infantry, eventually earning the rank of Staff Sergeant, and Sgt. D’Andrea went to war during two different deployments to Kuwait and Iraq. After leaving the Army, he eventually moved to California and graduated from the Police Academy, which helped him land a job in law enforcement.
“After getting out of the Army and starting a career in law enforcement, I was urged by other veterans and my last Battalion Commander to go back to school,” he said. “Returning to civilian life after the Army was hard. I thought the only thing I knew how to do was go to war.”
It might be difficult to imagine, but the strong and battled-hardened soldier was intimidated by the thought of trying college again.
“The thought of trying college again, especially while working full time in a sometimes difficult law enforcement job, gave me butterflies in my stomach,” he said.
However, he knew his career would not advance without a college degree. D’Andrea serves on a gang and narcotics suppression task force that includes multiple law enforcement agencies in California, and while he says that he loves his job because of the positive impact it has on the community, he is now a husband and father of two, and looks forward to career growth that will take him off the tough streets. That’s why he came to Brandman.
“I flirted with this idea for five years, and finally began looking for colleges to attend. I found Brandman University and what stuck out the most was its history with the military; that was the main reason why I chose Brandman,” he said
While it wasn’t easy for him at first, D’Andrea says that he quickly realized that there were a number of people at Brandman who cared about his success, especially faculty, who helped him adjust, and he would go on to earn his bachelor’s degree in Organizational Leadership.
“As each semester passed I realized I had continual support from my professors. I was made comfortable in seeking guidance and advice from my professors,” he said. “There are a lot of faculty who stand out at Brandman and I want to thank them for pushing me to my full potential.”
Statistical research was one of the most challenging classes, he says, and points to the faculty member teaching that course as a specific example of how Brandman instructors go the extra mile.
“Professor Eric Silva was just fantastic. I was good at math in high school, but that was a decade ago. He made himself available anytime I needed extra help,” D’Andrea said. “Jalin Brooks Johnson is awesome too. And John Duke, who taught criminal justice, and Maria Vitale – all of these different faculty members helped me in some way. They are what make the difference at Brandman.”
D’Andrea had such a successful experience that he decided to continue his education at Brandman and is now pursuing a master’s in Organizational Leadership (MAOL) at the Ontario and Online campuses. And, like his Battalion Commander from the Army influenced him, D’Andrea now encourages every veteran he meets to pursue education and take advantage of Post 911/G.I. Bill education benefits.
“I’m currently getting a few of my close friends to enroll with Brandman, based off of the service, guidance, and support I was continually provided.”
When asked what advice he has for other veterans who are hesitant about college, he says to tap into those things you learn in military training and on the battlefield.
“I remember thinking ‘this is tough, but compared to Iraq it’s a cake walk’ and if I can do it, anyone can do it,” he said. “Take the leap. Go for it. The education benefits are there for serving your country – use them.”
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