Coast Guard Role models: Inspiring the next generation

Take a moment to think back – can you remember the people who influenced you the most in your life? Maybe a special teacher, a talented athlete or even one of your parents? Role models are important – they challenge us, inspire us and help us become the best person we can be. Currently, more than 150 Coast Guard units actively provide role models for students in schools all across the nation through Coast Guard’s Partnership in Education programs.

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Coast Guard mentors, their student mentees and the principal from Amidon-Bowen Elementary School gather together at an end-of-year celebration. U.S. Coast Guard photo.
Coast Guard mentors, their student mentees and the principal from Amidon-Bowen Elementary School gather together at an end-of-year celebration. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

Written by Emily Harcum.

Take a moment to think back – can you remember the people who influenced you the most in your life? Maybe a special teacher, a talented athlete or even one of your parents? Role models are important – they challenge us, inspire us and help us become the best person we can be. Currently, more than 150 Coast Guard units actively provide role models for students in schools all across the nation through Coast Guard’s Partnership in Education programs.

Petty Officer 3rd Class Kyle Sandberg and Petty Officer 2nd Class Luis Caquias with their student mentee, Elijah Brothers. U.S. Coast Guard photo.
Petty Officer 3rd Class Kyle Sandberg and Petty Officer 2nd Class Luis Caquias with their student mentee, Elijah Brothers. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

For 22 years, Coast Guard’s Partnership in Education has supported students at elementary, secondary schools, colleges and universities. More than 30,000 Coast Guard active duty, reservists, civilians and auxiliarists volunteered 250,000 hours working with local schools. The volunteers work directly with students to heighten their awareness of the Coast Guard’s core values – honor, respect and devotion to duty. The partnerships also emphasize the importance of enhancing academic skills, exercising personal initiative and responsibility and recognizing individual self worth.

Recently, students and teachers from Amidon-Bowen Elementary School honored their role models in a farewell ceremony. Due to the upcoming move of the Coast Guard’s headquarters to Anacostia, Washington, D.C., the bittersweet celebration marked the last year Coast Guard men and women will mentor students at the school. Vice Adm. Manson Brown – deputy commandant for mission support and a former Partnership in Education coordinator for Amidon-Bowen – noted the importance of these types of programs in his keynote speech at the event, stressing both Coast Guard mentors and students treasure their “crucial partnership.”

“[PIE] is a very important program, and I’m proud of Coast Guard for providing the opportunity for us to participate. Hopefully, we can get even more [Coast Guardsmen] involved, and keep the programs growing!” said Gwen Bradford, a Partnership in Education participant working in the governmental and public affairs directorate.

While the ties with Amidon-Bowen built during the 20-year relationship with the school will endure, Coast Guard Headquarters is now also cultivating partnerships in the new location in Ward 8.

However, headquarters is only one of more than 150 units active in the Partnership in Education. Sector Los Angeles-Long Beach, for example, is well-known for its community engagement and creative events, providing Coast Guard role models to a wide range of grade levels.

“…Our members represent the organization and commands by conveying a positive image to the youth and helping them to discover different possibilities for their future,” said Ensign Lisa Liu, Partnership in Education coordinator at Los Angeles-Long Beach. “What many of us do not realize is how much these kids look up to those of us in uniform. We can guide them onto the right path simply by getting involved.”

Partnership in Education coordinator, Tom Sullard, and his mentee, Murshawn Copeland, smile after finishing their stage reading of “Five Little Monkeys.” U.S. Coast Guard photo.
Partnership in Education coordinator, Tom Sullard, and his mentee, Murshawn Copeland, smile after finishing their stage reading of “Five Little Monkeys.” U.S. Coast Guard photo.

The overwhelming support from Coast Guard members across the nation can be felt in the sheer numbers. At the Coast Guard Academy alone, there are 500 volunteers. More than half of the members of units at Air Station Detroit, Aids to Navigation Team Woods Hole, Air Station Traverse City and Station Port Canaveral are active in their Partnership in Education program. In addition, Coast Guard cutters Kittiwake and James Rankin have 100 percent participation. The Telecommunication and Information Systems Command has 74 participants, holding the record for the service’s longest running Partnership in Education program at 25 years!

“I first participated in the PIE program while commanding officer of TISCOM,” said Richard Hartman. “It was a profound experience; helping young children, many first generation immigrants develop their language, math and science skills. By the end of the school year, the children had transformed into bubbly, outgoing and happy youngsters. It was such an enjoyable experience that, later, after I had returned to TISCOM as a [civilian] government employee, I volunteered to serve as the PIE coordinator. It is a great feeling when a 6th grader passes me in the hall and says ‘Hi, Capt. Hartman!’”

By collaborating in these types of partnerships with local schools, community organizations and businesses, Coast Guard role models promote excellence in education, opportunities and career awareness. Many of these education partnerships reach communities with large, underserved populations and expose students to new and exciting learning experiences. The ongoing interaction between students and Coast Guard members facilitates access to diverse role models and inspires countless young people. Petty Officer 2nd Class Daniel Marquez, of Base National Capital Region, says he’s inspired by the progress Coast Guard mentors have made with Partnership in Education children.

“You can see them grow through the interaction,” said Marquez. “And that, in turn, makes me more determined; to know that we’re truly making a difference.”

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