“My coaches and professors have taught me to take something head-on and give it everything I have.”
– Cheyanna Jennings ’20
Cheyanna Jennings ’20 began her education at Central with no idea how confident she’d become.
She started in softball practice. “Associate head coach Alicia O’Brien always encourages us to step into leadership roles, and she’s a wonderful role model herself as a very successful female coach. She and head coach George Wares are huge advocates for female athletes,” Jennings says. “They insist that players keep eye contact and speak up to one another, and that makes you have confidence in yourself.”
Jennings always wanted to join the military and decided the Army National Guard was the best fit for her. She took a semester off in 2018 to complete Basic Combat Training and Advanced Individual Training. During her AIT she became a certified combat medic and certified Emergency Medical Technician. Now she’s back on campus continuing her college and softball career. After she graduates, she’ll go on active duty.
“I didn’t have a lot of confidence about myself as a female going into the Army,” she says. “There are a lot of stereotypes against you—that you’re weaker and smile your way to the top, but my coaches and professors taught me to take something head-on and give it everything I have, and that really paid off for me in the end.”
Jennings graduated top of her basic and medical combat classes. “During my training, I remembered to keep eye contact, and that was something my superiors recognized in a board review,” she recalls.
Something else prior to her training helped Jennings become a stronger soldier: philosophy. In fall 2017, Jennings took Intro to Philosophy with Assistant Professor of Philosophy Mark Thomas. “I love the required courses we have to take at Central,” she says. “I never would have taken philosophy on my own—like, what am I going to do with that?—but it made me question ‘Why?’ and ‘How?’ ”
The following semester she took another philosophy course, Memory and the Holocaust with Thomas, which included a trip to Germany and Poland. The intercultural experience made Jennings eager to engage with the diverse backgrounds of her fellow soldiers during combat training, and one of the closest friends she made during training was from Nigeria. “Central encourages you to treat everybody equally and embrace all cultures. That mindset alone gave me an advantage in my military career,” she says.
Jennings has many job opportunities to choose from in the Army. She could become a physician assistant, surgeon or athletic trainer. She hopes to combine a healthcare career with her background in psychology and philosophy, possibly working with veterans who have PTSD, anxiety and depression. She wants her connection to Central to remain strong as well and is considering funding a scholarship for students interested in the military.
“When I first saw Central I was so excited, but then I saw the tuition cost. I could’ve gone to a state university on a full ride, but then I wouldn’t have gotten the small student-to-professor ratio and international and athletic opportunities Central provides. Those made my decision to come here worth it. If you’re interested in the military, Central is part of the Yellow Ribbon Program, in which a significant portion of your tuition cost will be waived in return for your service. With scholarships, loans and grants, a Central education is very attainable.”
— Profile written by: Marin Harrington ’21