Fontana resident attends State of the Union event
Fontana resident Crystal Tettenhorst, a U.S. Navy veteran, never imagined that her service to the nation and her good work in school would one day land her a spot at a highly prestigious event in Washington, D.C.
On Jan. 20, Tettenhorst watched in person as President Barack Obama delivered the 2015 State of the Union address and said it was an “amazing” and “unforgettable” experience.
“It is truly an honor to be here for such an important event. I feel very excited and happy to be here," said Tettenhorst via phone from Washington D.C. while waiting to be seated at the House Chamber.
Tettenhorst, who is currently studying to become a pharmacist and is planning to major in biochemistry at either Cal State San Bernardino or University of California Riverside, was the special guest of Rep. Norma Torres (D-CA), whose district includes Fontana.
Torres, who was witnessing her first State of the Union address as a member of Congress, said Tettenhorst represents and inspires the veterans in the Inland Empire and those who are facing economic challenges.
“On the heels of the president’s announcement to vastly expand access to community college, Crystal reminds us of the need to invest in training and higher education and of the transformative role community colleges play in the lives of so many," said Torres prior to the speech.
During his address, Obama declared his proposal to make community college education free of tuition for certain students who meet the requirements.
“Forty percent of our college students choose community college. Some are young and starting out. Some are older and looking for a better job. Some are veterans and single parents trying to transition back into the job market. Whoever you are, this plan is your chance to graduate ready for the new economy, without a load of debt," said Obama. “Understand, you’ve got to earn it -- you’ve got to keep your grades up and graduate on time.”
Torres said Tettenhorst's story reflects the realities of many Inland Empire residents working to adapt to a changing economy, and as Obama releases details about his community college proposal, "she reminds us that an investment in education is an investment in our future."
Born into a military family, Tettenhorst decided to join the Navy as a way to get the necessary funding to attend college. After serving six years in the Navy, most of which she spent aboard the aircraft carrier Enterprise as a nuclear machinist, Tettenhorst decided to finally pursue her dream to become a biochemist.
“Crystal served our country honorably. Now, it is our responsibility to ensure she has the tools she needs to lead a successful life beyond the military," said Torres.
For Tettenhorst, the visit to Washington represented more than just a trip; it also meant paying tribute to her uncle, who died in Vietnam. She visited the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, which lists the names of the more than 58,000 Americans who gave their lives during that conflict.
“There are no words to describe the feeling. Not only did I reunite with family members from Virginia, but I also found my uncle’s name on the wall. I want to thank Congresswoman Torres for such an incredible experience," said Tettenhorst.