April 23, 2003 – Four Virgin Islanders, members of the U.S. Coast Guard, dug into their own pockets to come home and share their experiences and discuss career opportunities with local high school and college students.
Edwin Blyden, Charlotte Amalie High School Class of 1979; Myron Dalmida, CAHS Class of 1978; Flavel Blyden, All Saints Cathedral School Class of 1979; and Alvin Dalmida Jr., CAHS Class of 1981, think their jobs are important. That's why this is the third year in a row that the four have come back to the Virgin Islands for 10 days to promote the Coast Guard as a career choice.
"When the students know that we grew up here, they recognize that we have things in common, such as once living in the same estates and having gone to the same schools," Alvin Dalmida says. "These common bonds, I believe, make a big difference when talking to them. We tell them about our jobs and places we've seen in our careers, trying to emphasize the opportunities that the Coast Guard can offers to them."
Edwin Blyden, now a Coast Guard recruiter in Texas, nods in agreement. "A lot of people have the impression that the Coast Guard only does search and rescue and law enforcement," he says. "Though that's a big part of it, there are many other career paths that a person can choose, such as waterways management, environmental protection, ice breaking and vessel inspections, just to name a few."
He adds: "Most students don't even realize that the Coast Guard has its own academy, which offers a free college degree in exchange for obligating five years to the service after graduation. The biggest difference between the Coast Guard Academy and the other military academies is that you don't need an appointment from your congressional representative to be accepted. We look more for a strong math and science background, as well as the student's GPA and class standing."
For Myron Dalmida, this annual trip has become very personal. "When I look into these young eyes, I see myself," he explains. "After high school, I had other opportunities locally, but I joined the Coast Guard, thinking that I'd learn a trade as an electrician and, after my enlistment was up, I'd return to the island." A big smile breaks on his face as he adds: "That was 24 years ago."
The four have already visited some St. Thomas schools, talking to students one-on-one and in groups. On Thursday they will travel to St. Croix for the say and be joined by Catherine Prince a 1976 graduate of St. Joseph High School. Prince, a member of the Coast Guard Reserve, has been on active duty in the St. Croix Coast Guard office since September 2001. (See "Crucian Cathy Prince serves with Coast Guard".)
Lt. John Reinert, who heads the Coast Guard Marine Safety Detachment on St. Thomas, says the Virgin Islanders' visits definitely have a positive effect on local recruiting. "With the closest recruiting office in San Juan, these type of visits are essential to our efforts to get the Coast Guard story out into the community," he says. "These guys give just another option to students that they may not have considered before, and the fact that they all grew up here drives the point home."
Reinert adds that none of the four Coast Guardsmen get reimbursed to travel to the territory; they are simply given time off. "The money it takes for them to fly here comes out of their own pockets," he says. "If that doesn't show their devotion to the youth on these islands and belief in the Coast Guard's opportunities, I don't know what would."
Editor's note:This article was written by Torin Zielenski, U.S. Coast Guard. To read earlier Source articles about officers Flavel Blyden and Myron Dalmida, search the St. Thomas "People" section by last name.
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