Written by Petty Officer 2nd Class Lauren Laughlin
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
-Martin L. King Jr.
“This is my favorite quote,” said Coast Guard First Class Cadet Nicholas Woolfolk. “No matter the situation, love, respect and authenticity are the greatest assets to use in any situation.”
The Coast Guard Academy is unique because it is a college mixed with military. Some days cadets have dark days; a failing grade, lost game or an unkind word from a shipmate.
As those days happen on campus, Woolfolk works hard to make sure those days become brighter for everyone.
“He always has a smile on his face,” says Dr. Alex Waid, a professor at the Academy.
“He is kind, generous with his thoughts and time, and makes you feel important and respected when you talk to him,” continued Waid. “He’s a good, caring man. He also has a childlike, happy and innocent smile that brightens up anyone’s day.”
Being an advocate for love, authenticity and respect takes time and effort – effort Woolfolk is willing to give to help light up the campus with his many volunteer positions within the Academy and community service.
He is a member of the Coast Guard Academy Leadership Diversity Advisory Council, which is aimed toward voicing Academy concerns to the superintendent and providing genuine feedback regarding Academy policies and procedures.
“At the Academy, cadets learn about who they really are and want to be,” said Woolfolk.
“Speaking on behalf of the Corps of Cadets to staff of high ranking individuals can be difficult. As a member of this council, I would like to see our cadet voice legitimized with more practice and policy.”
A native of Accokeek, Maryland, just south of Washington, D.C., Woolfolk chose the Coast Guard Academy because of his grandfather.
“My grandfather wanted to join the Coast Guard, but was denied entrance because of his skin color,” said Woolfolk. “He joined the U.S. Army instead and served more than 20 years. When he tells me stories of his service days, I can hear the pride in his voice. I chose to come into the Coast Guard and Academy to make a difference because of him.”
Woolfolk chose the mechanical engineering major because he had found a love for engineering through his family’s love of working on cars.
“I grew up in what would be described as a ‘car’ family, we love automotive systems and working on cars, we even had our own drag racing team,” said Woolfolk. “I chose mechanical engineering based on pure curiosity to know more about the field my family has always enjoyed.”
He says what kept him in mechanical engineering is the major’s hands-on aspects, fascinating material and required dedication toward excellence.
“Nick began at the Coast Guard Academy with a broad range of interests that included music, the humanities and engineering,” said Dr. Ron Adrezin, Woolfolk’s academic advisor. “As a senior mechanical engineering student, he is working on a system to monitor small Coast Guard vessels, for the safety of the crew and the impact on its structure, due to rough operation conditions. Nick continues to study public policy alongside his engineering courses, positioning himself as a future leader who must balance political and technical realities.”
Woolfolk intends to continue mechanical engineering through his career in the Coast Guard and hopes to one day be the Coast Guard’s liaison to the Republic of Cuba.
He is the mechanical engineering alternate representative on the Cadet Academic Advisory Board for the Dean of Academics; providing input to the Dean regarding the mechanical engineering program from a cadet perspective and fulfilling any required tasking from the Dean.
“I have worked closely with Woolfolk over the last year watching him grow from a freshly pinned first class cadet, still shaping his leadership style, into the strong and confident leader he has become in Foxtrot Company,” said Senior Chief Petty Officer Yvonne Livingston, Foxtrot Company Chief.
“One of the reasons he is such a positive influence in our company is his ability to approach situations with an open mind, show an appreciation for each cadet’s contributions and be respectful of everyone’s differences. He always takes the time to see how the junior members in our company are doing and thank them for their hard work. I truly enjoy having him as a member of Foxtrot and will miss him when heads out to the fleet but I also know that he will be an asset to junior enlisted and will accomplish great things in his career.”
Being a beacon of light on campus takes more than just one person, to help him with this task, Woolfolk turns to many smiling faces of the Coast Guard Academy Genesis Council.
The Genesis Council is an affinity council focused on African-American culture and bringing cadets from a multitude of different backgrounds and walks of life together for positive discourse, intellectual stimulation and personal growth.
The council is comprises of cadets from all backgrounds, all walks of life, all colors, and all sexual orientations working together to make everyone at the Academy feel welcomed and appreciated for who they truly are.
As president of the Genesis Council, Woolfolk’s role involves engaging regularly as the go-between of the Corps of Cadets and the community.
“The aim of the council is to give all cadets the opportunity to be themselves,” said Woolfolk. “Many times cadets feel they need to change to fit into the cadet mold, but only through being ourselves can we change the world.”
Woolfolk says that the goal of the Genesis Council is not just to celebrate African-American history, but also to get everyone lighting up the world and allow the cadets, staff and faculty to have meaningful conversations about their differences.
“I have seen the Academy grow as people are now more comfortable with discussions about diversity,” said Woolfolk.
“However, there is always room for improvement and until every person can freely be themselves the work will continue.”