One person changed Tyler Sullivan’s life: his son.
“Gavin’s birth was the first thing that drove me to be ambitious and go back to school,” Sullivan says. “If I gave up, he’d have nothing,”
That event transformed him from being a member of the U.S. Air Force to becoming a full-time student at Cal Poly Pomona, a cadet in USC’s ROTC program and a single father of two. He has visions of becoming a commissioned space officer who monitors any system placed in space, including satellites and GPS systems.
Sullivan, who is majoring in business, is entering his senior year at Cal Poly Pomona and as a California State University Trustees’ Award for Outstanding Achievement recipient, earning $6,000 toward his education.
His journey to Cal Poly Pomona began in 2011 — two years before he transferred from community college in the Air Force. He reached out to Pam Adams, an advisor in the College of Business Administration, and together they figured out what requirements he needed to meet in order to transfer.
“If I had to describe Tyler in one word, that word would be ‘driven,’ ” she says. “Once Tyler decides on a goal, he puts in the necessary planning and work to meet that goal, and meet it well.”
He chose Cal Poly Pomona because it offers a quality education at an affordable price and was conveniently located close to his wife’s family. Midway through his education at Cal Poly Pomona, he suddenly became a single parent with a full-time school schedule.
He didn’t let that stop him from pursuing his degree. He continued to apply for scholarships and do odd jobs to support his children: Gavin, 4, and Audrey, 18 months.
“As crazy as it sounds, we still live with my ex’s mom and family, even though she’s no longer in the picture,” Sullivan says. “We all get along great — we should be a sitcom.”
Sullivan says that his children drive him to be successful.
“It never occurred to me that giving up was an option,” he says.
Sullivan’s dedication to his education doesn’t go unnoticed by professors.
“Tyler is an intelligent, determined, thoughtful student who adds value in the classroom through his ability to work with students of all backgrounds,” says Jeanne Almaraz, a management and human resources professor. “He shares his true interest in the topic at hand and inspires other students with his thoughtful contributions in the classroom and his absolute determination to present his best efforts in group work and in his personal assignments.”
Balancing parenting, school and ROTC means that Sullivan has become a master of time management.
“I make time where there isn’t,” he says. “You learn to live off of energy drinks and no sleep.”
Even with his drive and determination, he worries that he isn’t spending enough time with his children — but knows that in the end it will be worth it.
“When it’s all said and done, you’ll realize it wasn’t that bad, [school] wasn’t the worst thing ever,” he says. “I hope my story can help someone realize that they’re not alone, there are other single parents out there dealing with the same struggles, trying to balance everything.”