How did I get here?
Sienna Gonzalez is a biology major and mascot handler at The Citadel, originally from San Antonio, Texas. She has an Army contract and is in the pursuit of becoming a medical officer in the military. The military attracted Gonzalez because of the opportunities, the travel and the connections. She thrives in structured environments, works well under pressure and has the desire to help people. For these reasons, she is interested in specializing in emergency trauma medicine.
Unlike many incoming Citadel students, Gonzalez knew little about the school or the military. However, she was determined to leave her hometown and broaden her horizons. Her high school volleyball coaches’ annual boot camp was the closest thing to preparation she had. Coming to The Citadel was the largest culture shock she has experienced; but it was just the beginning.
In high school, Gonzalez found out her grandfather was in the Navy. He was drafted when he was looking for work and had not talked about it since. Her interest in the military made her protective grandfather uneasy; he was not initially sold on the idea of Gonzalez enlisting. Still eager to learn more, she turned to her mother’s boyfriend, Marvin.
Marvin is a retired Army vet and spoke fondly of his military experience. He told Gonzalez exciting stories of his time in the military while also stressing the difficult situations it can demand. Regardless of Marvin’s cautionary tales and her grandfather’s reservations, Gonzalez was confident in her abilities and knew she would excel. It was because of this confidence that Marvin suggested she consider the officer route and research military schools.
Gonzalez learned more about military schools with the help of Marvin. He taught her about the different types of schools and ROTC programs. He explained the difference between military academies and senior military colleges, showing her The Citadel. Gonzalez continued to do research online with her mom.
Gonzalez had her eyes set on The Citadel when she received her ROTC scholarship. However, she only received a three-year scholarship, which was not enough. When Gonzalez told The Citadel she received an ROTC scholarship, they awarded her a full-ride academic scholarship for her first year.
Gonzalez’s mother was incredibly supportive of her going to The Citadel, especially after learning about the high-value education. Gonzalez talked to the Department of Biology, discussing the research and study abroad opportunities they offer. A major draw was the high percentage that the department pushes out to medical schools. She could not wait to be part of this program.
Gonzalez did not know what to expect when she arrived for her pre-knob visit. She did not know anyone and knew very little about what went on at The Citadel. Her knob year was about learning everything – and learning quickly. Gonzalez is grateful she came to The Citadel because she does not believe she would be able to learn as quickly at another school.
Gonzalez enjoyed her knob year because she was able to connect with her classmates on a deeper level. She felt inspired and motivated by her superiors and senior mentor. She looked up to them knowing that they also went through the fourth-class system. If they all could do it, there was nothing stopping her from doing it.
During the first initial meeting during knob year, the Commandant was talking about the year to come. He discussed starting a live mascot program where cadets live with the dog full time, go to sporting events and travel with the football team. The handlers would become ambassadors of the school. Gonzalez was immediately sold on the program; all she had to do was wait.
A year went by and CQRs came out – the jobs cadets apply for. When Gonzalez ranked the jobs that interested her, she put mascot handler as her top choice. She knew she could influence and meet more people as the mascot handler. Her TAC Officer thought she would do well as a cadre corporal, suggesting that she should reconsider. But Gonzalez was set on her choice.
A few weeks later Gonzalez was granted an interview. She was asked what she knew about bulldogs, why she wants to be the mascot handler and how she sees this program moving forward. Her answers came naturally. She talked about how welcoming a live mascot would be for cadet’s visiting family members. As a mascot handler, she would bring the bulldog everywhere.
Today, Gonzalez is on track to accept a commission into the Army and become a medical officer. Her family has been extremely supportive, including her grandfather; they have seen how much she learned and how strong she became. With the support of her family, she continues to thrive at The Citadel. In addition to her handler role, she is involved in the beach volleyball club, the alpha epsilon delta society (pre-health club) and the pre-health society. She also starts cadet philanthropy this year where she will be helping various members of the community.
When Gonzalez retires from the military she wants to go back to school and receive her Master’s in education to become a science teacher. She wants to become a teacher because she wants to help shape young students like her past teachers did with her, making her into the strong woman she is today