We’ve been looking forward to heading to California to meet with Jhonnatan “Johnny” Chinchilla for a while, and now that we’re finally here, we can’t wait to learn more about his journey and Sentinels of Freedom (SOF), the nonprofit that’s supported him along the way.
Johnny greets us with a huge smile and invites us into his home. Originally from Guatemala, Johnny came to the U.S. when he was 6 years old. Following high school, he enlisted in the Marine Corps, serving four deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan, before being honorably discharged due to severe back injuries sustained in active duty.
Johnny tells us that after returning home, he was diagnosed with testicular cancer. As a single father, it was a scary time for him and his daughter, but he won the battle. With the help of SOF, he decided his next step would be to pursue a higher education degree.
Johnny proudly shows us his University of San Diego diploma, and he lets us know that he was honored with multiple academic awards, including a special award created just for him, The Jhonnatan Chinchilla Perseverance Award.
We can see the pride in Johnny’s face, and we’re overwhelmed by all that he’s accomplished. As we get ready to leave, Johnny tells us, “The support I have received from Sentinels of Freedom has been magnificent. I credit a lot of my success and confidence to SOF. My family and I are forever grateful for the amazing contribution and support.”
Thanks to a Newman’s Own Foundation grant, SOF was able to provide living subsidies and mentoring to help this first-generation college graduate achieve his dream.
Join us on other stops on our road trip here or by clicking on the map below.