08:00 AM

Student Veteran Shows Resilience Throughout Academic Journey

By Bri Phillips

David King came to Cal State San Marcos in 2017 feeling lost. Being a first-generation college student meant that King didn’t have anyone at home to help him figure out financial aid or other college resources. 

A month into his first semester at CSUSM, King left to try community college instead. But he decided that wasn’t for him, either. 

“College felt pretty difficult because I come from a single-parent family household,” King said. “But I’m glad I came back. I was just very confused at the time. I didn't understand how financial aid worked. I didn't have structure in my life. I didn't really have any guidance during that time. I was all over the place. I didn't feel good about coming to school because I didn't see the resources that were available to me.”  

King joined the Marine Corps in 2018 to find the structure he desired. While serving at Twentynine Palms in Southern California’s High Desert, he attended Marine Corps Communication Electronics school to become a telephone systems personal computer repairer. 

“I was coming back from Twentynine Palms, and I was trying to figure out what my next step would be," he said. “Do I want to do the job that I'm doing in the Marines outside of the Marines? And after looking at it, it wasn't really what I wanted to do. I was more interested in finding a way to help other people.” 

King decided the best way to do that was to return to college and focus on a career helping veterans while maintaining a close connection to the military by joining the Marine Corps Reserve. That plan is coming to fruition, as he graduates this month from CSUSM with a bachelor’s degree in psychology.

King thrived in his return to higher education. He earned his associate degree in psychology at MiraCosta in 2021 before transferring back to CSUSM. King built a community at the Epstein Family Veterans Center, where he has met other students who have faced similar challenges. As a reservist, King often has had to put his classes on hold. 

“There have been times where I’ve been called to do training and I’ll have to be gone for maybe almost a month,” King said. “Then I’ll think about the exams and school I have to miss, so I have to email my professors to try to figure out something.” 

King is the undergraduate peer advising case management intern for Veterans to Energy Careers (VTEC), which is a grant-funded program from the Office of Naval Research, under the Department of the Navy. This national program based at CSUSM helps student veterans translate their military experience into sustainable energy careers through internships and professional development.

King helps student veterans with their resumes, career planning and coaching. One of the mentors he worked closely with during his internship is Joshua Loop, the VTEC technical programs manager. 

“David's passion and curiosity for the military-affiliated community was obvious from the moment he walked into the Veterans Center, and the students that are easiest to mentor are those who are passionate and curious," Loop said. “We are excited to watch him grow and make an impact in his community.”

King has certainly shown resilience throughout his academic journey. He plans to pursue a master’s degree in social work at CSUSM next fall and continue working for VTEC. 

“I would give student veterans the advice of coming down to the Veterans Center and learning about all the resources that are available to them,” King said. “I never really set foot in the Veterans Center until I started working here. But there's so much that they can do, so many programs, so many clubs and things that they can do to help them out with their professional development.” 

Media Contact

Eric Breier, Public Affairs Specialist

ebreier@csusm.edu | Office: 760-750-7314