Veterans Day Spotlight: Charlito Chumney '21 (BS Education); Staff Sergeant, U.S. Army (ret.)

Leah Schmerl
Charlito Chumney

Charlito Chumney did not expect to make a long career in the military, but he served 12 years before enrolling at St. Francis College in 2018.

Having grown up in the Caribbean island of St. Kitts, Charlito is now pursuing an Education degree focusing on Physical Education. He hopes to become P.E. teacher and eventually get into performance training for athletes. His ultimate dream is to coach at the collegiate or professional level.

Charlito graduated from high school in 2001 and earned an associate's degree from American Military University while serving. He was able to transfer some credits to SFC, helping accelerate the process of earning his four-year degree.

In recognition of Veterans Day, Charlito reflected on his military career and his experience at St. Francis College.

How did you choose St. Francis College?

I wanted to go to a school where I could feel like somebody and not just be a number. I visited some other schools with P.E. programs and I felt like a number there. The emails I got seemed like group messages. They weren't geared towards me. St. Francis was much more personal.

What's been the best thing about being at St. Francis College?

The mentorship and the bonds I've made with the staff and some of my peers. My mentors are Dr. [Marina] Gair [Associate Professor and Education Department Chair], Dr. [Gerard] Shaw, [Associate Professor of Education] and Dr. [John] McNamara [Professor of Education] and they're real professionals. And there are awesome people in the staff too, like Maliek [Sterrett, Assistant Director of Multicultural Student Affairs].

Is there a course you've taken that really stands out so far?

I took a history course with Professor [Timothy] Houlihan that was collaborative and independent. Every week, we studied a different decade. We'd have to find a primary source and talk about it in class. You were teaching yourself the history that you wanted to learn from that period. That was fun.

What is your military background?

I enlisted in the Army '05 and stayed in until May 2018. I spent time in Germany, Texas and upstate.

I did five combat tours between Iraq and Afghanistan. '06 to '07 in was in Iraq, then '08 to '09 to Iraq again, and the whole year of 2011 in Iraq. 2013 I was in Afghanistan, and '15 to '16 Iraq again.

Why did you enlist originally?

I had just moved here from the Caribbean and I didn't have money for college yet. I didn't want to be in debt or not be able to help my family. I said, "let me give the military two years, get money for college and get out." But once I was in there, I said, "this could be an actual career for me. Not a job, but a career."

What lessons do you take with you from your long military career?

Knowing everyone is on a journey and being part of their journey to help them achieve something.

When someone came in [to the military] and I was their leader or whatnot, I had to set the example. I had to put their welfare in my hands, to encourage them to have a good career. It's not about me having a good career, it's about the people that worked for me. Their journey is as important as mine.

What's it like being a veteran student at SFC?

People at SFC really care about veterans. They're not just doing a job and checking a box. Caring about people is ingrained at St. Francis.