Andrea Sierra and Nathaniel Cregier were already engaged when they started college in 2013, he at UCLA and she at Mount Saint Mary’s. The high school sweethearts quickly dove into their studies and many extra-curricular activities. But they never let their schedules keep them apart.
“Just about every day he was in college, he would get out during rush hour,” Andrea says. Rather than drive the 20 miles home, which could take two hours at that time of day, Nathaniel would detour to the Mount to wait out the traffic. “We had dinner together. We did homework together. And then, when rush hour passed, he went home.”
All that togetherness made Nathaniel a familiar figure at the University. “He knew all the security guards. Everybody knew him,” Andrea says. But the two were also growing independently, she pursuing a double major in political science and criminology, he working toward a degree in mechanical engineering.
Andrea graduated in December 2016 as did Nathaniel the following May. Then life really sped up. “He commissioned into the Air Force in the same month,” Andrea says. “Two weeks after that, we got married.” They moved to Dayton, Ohio, where Nathaniel serves as a first lieutenant at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.
Since 2019, Andrea Cregier has worked as director of El Puente Educational Center, which provides academic and social services for Latino immigrant families in Dayton. Seeing the children succeed in school and their parents gain skills, knowledge and confidence, gives her tremendous satisfaction.
Cregier also loves the chance to connect with the Hispanic community, something she took for granted in California and missed greatly when she first came to Ohio. “The greatest thing for me was being able to reconnect back to my culture and build my own friendships and, in a way, a family here in Dayton,” she says.
In addition to her job, Cregier is completing a master’s degree in countering organized crime and terrorism through an online program at the University College London. “Ultimately, I want to do counterterrorism, specifically with the FBI,” she says. Her experience at El Puente, where some families have suffered from drug trafficking and human trafficking, has inspired an interest in fighting such crimes.
The Cregiers have more big changes in store. “We’re expecting a baby!” Andrea says. The due date is in August. “Also, we’re moving to Washington, D.C., this summer.”
From high school, to college, to careers, to the brink of parenthood, Andrea and Nathaniel Cregier have kept their relationship strong. “Schedules can be busy,” Andrea says. “Life can be hectic. But probably the biggest thing is carving out some time for both of you.”
Communication is crucial, she adds. And it’s important to pay attention to your own mental and emotional health. “That way, if you’re experiencing an issue, on an individual level or as partners, that’s something you can communicate about.”