April 20, 2006 — Four high school seniors on St. Thomas have been granted more than $1 million in scholarships to the U. S. Coast Guard Academy, one of the nation's most prestigious schools. The four — Ivanna Eudora Kean senior Shaharlee Blake and Charlotte Amalie High School seniors Daria Scott, Jevron James and Lenny Phillip — have each been granted a $275,000 scholarship, USCG Lt. Alvin Dalmida announced this week.
The scholarships are part of the Coast Guard's "Recruiting in the 21st Century" minority recruitment program.
Dalmida, a 1981 CAHS graduate, has been ambitiously recruiting V.I. students for several years.
Dalmida takes special pride in the new crop of students, particularly the three CAHS seniors, whom he has personally recruited and mentored.
"It was a lot of work, e-mails phone calls," he said. "They [the students] called me after hours, and even text-messaged me to discuss their interests, the application process and the essays they had to submit.
"Acceptance into the Coast Guard Academy is very competitive," Dalmida said, "and these students have done very well."
The CAHS students got a taste of academy life last summer when they took advantage of the Coast Guard's Academy Introduction Mission (AIM) in New London, Conn. – a rigorous summer endeavor which seeks to instill discipline, teamwork and honor into prospective cadets (See "Students Return From Coast Guard Training Session").
Before entering the academy, the students are recommended to attend a one-year prep course at the New Mexico Military Institute in Roswell, N.M. Once they complete the year, they will become full-time students at the academy.
Lt. Col. David Waller, Kean senior army instructor, is mentor to Shaharlee Blake, a role in which he takes pride. "She is constant, a solid performer. She has always been very motivated and conscientious. She always attends the JROTC summer camp in Puerto Rico, and last summer she received the company leadership award. There's about 200 cadets involved in the programs," he said. "Each summer only the top students from each school's program get to participate in the camp."
About her acceptance in the program, Blake said, "I'm excited, nervous mixed emotions I guess, but most important, I'm happy."
Blake is an athlete, a dancer with the Caribbean Ritual Dancers troupe, and a member of the National Honor Society, as well as battalion operations officer for the Kean JROTC program.
And she is modest. "I'm not the greatest musician," she said, "but I do other stuff. I just competed in the Carnival Queen show. I didn't win; I got Miss Cooperative, but it played out well because I got accepted in the program, so it didn't bother me. I was just overwhelmed when I heard I'd gotten in. I didn't expect it so soon. It was really a load off my shoulders."
CAHS student Lenny Phillip is an honors student. And according to Dalmida, "He is an athlete and a varsity basketball player who took time out to concentrate on his academic prowess. He is a team leader. He led the students last year in the AIM summer program at the academy."
Phillip said he was a bit surprised by the good news: "Oh, yeah, I was surprised, but really, really glad. Anybody who gets a chance to do this shouldn't reject it."
He is still obviously enthused about the experience he had last year at the AIM program. "I participated in everything," he said. "It was a really interesting program. I met students from all over the world — from Korea, from Mexico. It was exciting."
Phillip, who said he will pursue a civil engineer career at the academy, had one request, not directly related to school. He asked: "Can I put in a halo? I would like to thank Lt. Dalmida and Thomas Hoffman. He [Hoffman] helped pay for our tickets last summer."
Dalmida confirmed that Hoffman, Navy League Caribbean and Latin American Division regional president, and the USS Robert L. Wilson Association helped pay for the students' tickets for the summer program.
Though the Source wasn't able to contact either Scott or James, Dalmida had warm words for them. In fact, Daria Scott was plucked almost directly from a CAHS recruiting mission Dalmida and USCG Petty Officer Edwin Blyden made last spring.
At that time, Scott had just been promoted from JROTC company commander to battalion commander. The USCG recruiters immediately told her about the USCG opportunities. She listened but said she was thinking about studying political science at the University of the Virgin Islands.
In his USCG letter of recommendation to the academy, Dalmida said, "When Scott announced her intention to apply to the academy, she knew it would be an uphill battle She has maintained a 3.4 point GPA, and takes advanced classes in pre-calculus, advanced biology. And she is a member of the Rising Stars Steel Orchestra, which selected the best and the brightest students."
James is a locally well-known athlete. He is the 6-foot-4-inch center for the CAHS Chicken Hawks basketball team, and an all-star volleyball player.
In his letter of recommendation for James, Dalmida said, "James would be a most outstanding addition to any corps of cadets."
The four students and their parents travel to New London on Saturday for a brief orientation session.
Graduates from the academy receive a Bachelor of Science degree and a leadership job as a USCG junior officer. There is a minimum service obligation of five years, Dalmida said, and most academy graduates make the military their career.
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