Fresh out of high school, Chiquitta Evans had a panicked “What do I do now?” moment.
“I had no plan for college. I had taken the ACTs, but that was about how far it went,” she said. “I had been in ROTC for all four years of high school. I went to a presentation by a recruiter from the Marine Corps with two of my friends; I knew at the very least that enlisting was a way to pay for college. Not long after, all three of us went to Paris Island together to begin our training as Marines.”
Evans, now 36 and living in Lancaster with her husband Herbert, who is currently deployed overseas, and her children Jaida, 15, and Gavin, 4, devoted the next 16 years of her life to military service. In August, she will graduate from Temple with a degree in Human Resource Management.
As a staff sergeant and Aviation Operations Specialist, she was responsible for monitoring aircraft flight schedules and other administrative duties in addition to physical training programs. She was also deployed overseas for five tours of duty, two in Iraq, one on the USS Bataan, one in Kuwait and one in Jordan. She retired from active duty service while at Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Miramar in San Diego, California.
“You don’t really think about the threat of not coming back; you just do the job. I knew Jaida was safe with my family back home so that helped me get by while I marked off the days until I saw them again,” Evans said. “Herbert is in Iraq right now. It’s a little different now — thanks to today’s technology I can communicate with him much more easily.”
Evans said that during her time in the Marine Corps, her fellow Marines became her second family, a support system for which she’ll always be grateful.
“Being in the Marine Corps forced me to grow up. It helped me develop leadership skills and a solid work ethic that I depend on every day,” she said. “My military experience was instrumental in helping me to recognize the importance of higher education, and the role that leadership plays in making a successful transition to civilian life.”
It was while serving at the former Willow Grove Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base that she discovered Temple University Ambler and decided, “I’m going to Temple when I retire from the Marine Corps; I’m going to be an Owl!”
“I applied and was accepted in 2015 and began classes in spring 2016. I wasn’t truly certain what I wanted to do but after taking Human Resource Management 1101, Leadership and Organization Management, it just felt right,” she said. “I knew that I could apply everything I had learned in the military to the human resource management field. I came in with more than 20 credits — I recommend to anyone in the service to take classes while they are serving because it certainly pays off in the long run.”
According to Evans, she was in close contact with Laura Reddick, Associate Director for Adult and Veteran Student Recruitment when making the decision to apply. Reddick and the Temple Military and Veteran Services Center team “made the transition from active duty service to the classroom easy.”
“They certainly made the transition from the West Coast to here much less stressful. They made sure everything was in place,” she said. “I’ve found that Temple is exceptionally veteran-friendly. At Temple Ambler, I’ve been able to build some get connections as president of the Society for Human Resource Management and take part in a variety of conferences and workshops. There are a lot of opportunities for one-on-one attention and interaction at the Ambler Campus.”
While at Temple, she was also able to work in the Veteran Services Center for a year in addition to taking advantage of a human resources internship with the Philadelphia Department of Labor.
“I’m in the car close to four hours a day, but everything has been worthwhile. I’d like to go back and tell my 18-year-old self when she asks ‘Is it all worth it?’ that it definitely will be,” she said. “Today I am a Temple Owl through and through. My next goal is to pursue my MBA from Temple.”
Family support has been essential to helping her get to this point, Evans said, and she can definitely see the finish line — or at least the finish line for this stage of her journey.
“There is no question I’m walking (at Commencement). I’m decorating my cap with the Marine Corps emblem. I’m making memories that day,” she said. “I am going to be the first among my Mom and Dad’s families to graduate from college — my family from Alabama will be there! Mom and Dad are super proud. This is a big deal and I could have never gotten here without my family supporting me every step of the way!”