Written by Kyle Malloy
Growing up in Portsmouth, Va., Chief Petty Officer Carlton White didn’t have very many military role models. Other than his father, a soldier in the Army, he didn’t have very much exposure to what it meant to be a service member or what exactly a military lifestyle entailed. The mission of the military was unclear to young Carlton and he didn’t see himself in the lifestyle. That all changed when, in 5th grade, the Coast Guard adopted his grade school through the Partnership in Education (PIE) program, sending two active-duty Coast Guard members to frequently engage with his class throughout the school year.
White remembers how exciting it was, listening to the two men as they regaled the children with stories about missions they had executed, danger they had encountered and all the ways the Coast Guard serves the country.
“I really looked up to those guys and got excited when they came to school,” said White.
He said he remembers the way they would address the class, almost like a comedic duo, one picking up where the other left off. They would talk to the class about an array of topics, from flight decks to cutters, helicopters to search & rescue missions, attracting more of the students’ attention with every tale they told.
“Their stories were very personalized,” said White. “Everything looked so exciting and it was fun to see the pictures of their missions.”
As White reflected on his childhood, he remembered how these service members help show him a world outside of his hometown. Their influence gave hope to a future he didn’t know could exist.
“As a kid, my opportunity to see positive role models was pretty limited,” he said. “Having those guys come and talk to us made a big difference to me.”
It was almost 20 years after White’s grade school days and experience with PIE that he enlisted in the military. Sure enough, when the time came, there was no question on which branch he would choose.
“The Coast Guard seemed like the coolest branch and I knew the most about it from the PIE program at my grade school,” he said. “If it wasn’t for the PIE program, I would have never joined the military at all.”
Now serving his 20th year in the Coast Guard as yeoman, White, experienced the extraordinary impact the PIE program can have on a kid and is appreciative to those present service members who are involved and stay committed to the program.
“Keep doing what you are doing because you are making a difference, a difference you may not even realize,” said White. “A lot of these kids don’t have any positive role models in their lives and they really look up to you.”
White’s military career and service to the country is an extraordinary example of how both students and Coast Guard benefit from such a unique partnership offered through the PIE program.
The PIE program enhances educational opportunities and career awareness for the nation’s youth through direct participation in education related programs. All members of the Coast Guard family, including active duty, reserve, auxiliary, civilian and retirees are encouraged to participate in school and community activities approved by their command. The Coast Guard promotes excellence in education through collaboration with local school systems, community groups, and businesses, especially in communities with large, underserved populations, and creates student awareness of the Coast Guard’s missions and people.
To find out more about the Coast Guard’s PIE program, please visit: http://www.uscg.mil/civilrights/OutreachPrograms/PIE.asp