Lt. Zeta Merchant: Hi. I’m Lieutenant Commander Zeta Merchant, and I have two questions for you: Are you concerned about paying for college? Do the words “experience,” “leadership,” and “respect” speak to you? If so, you can do what I did. I joined the United States Coast Guard through its College Student Pre-Commissioning Initiative, also known as the CSPI program. This scholarship program offers up to two years of college tuition, books, and fees, plus a monthly salary. Upon your graduation, you receive a guaranteed appointment to officer candidate school, where you will learn to excel as an officer in the United States Coast Guard.
First is Lieutenant Junior Grade Cecilia Robinson, an enthusiastic young officer who excelled in the CSPI program while attending Tennessee State University. Ms. Robinson will be the first to tell you that the C-SPOT program made her college experience much better.
Lt. Cecilia Robinson: I actually received a pamphlet in the mail, and at first it, with all the description of what the CSPI program offers, I was like, “This is a little too good to be true,” so I went to a local recruiting office in Nashville, Tennessee, and they were like, “No, it’s true.” Just go through the application process and you’ll find out. The application process was a little lengthy because, you know, I mean, it is a great deal, and they want to make sure they pick the best of the best when they enter into this program, and so when I actually got in, I was like, “Wow, this amazing!”
The change from, I guess, civilian life to now being enlisted in the Coast Guard with the program, there was no change. I was still very active with extracurricular activities. When I applied for it, I was actually the queen of my class. The following year, when I actually got accepted into the program, I was junior class president, and I even went on to try to be Ms. Tennessee State University, so it didn’t slow down any activities. I joined a sorority. So I still had a very regular college experience, and also, you know, had the Coast Guard as, you know, the next thing after my college step. So I mean, it didn’t slow down anything. If anything, it kind of catapulted the whole situation.
Lt. Fred Pugh: Hi, I’m Lieutenant JG Fred Pugh. I’m assigned here to Coast Guard second in New York. I’m stationed here at Staten Island, New York. I’ve been in the Coast Guard for four years. I enrolled in the CSPI program in 2004, went to college at Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia, graduated there 2006, went to Officer Candidate school in 2006 as well.
Well, as a college student, my first thought was “Yeah, I’m just going to be a military soldier all day every day, but it actually didn’t interrupt many things at all. I was able to actually quit two of my part-time jobs and focus more on school. Got to go out a lot more, and I had a nice little amount of money to actually go out and play a lot more.
I think the CSPI program’s a great program. Many people often don’t take advantage of things just because they’re a little afraid, a little apprehensive of trying anything new. I really think it’s a great opportunity to learn and grow, and it’s only three years if you decide not to do it, but during that three years, you really get to do a lot. You make a big difference in the world.
Lt. Zeta Merchant: As you’ve heard from these two outstanding young officers, the CSPI program is a great way to get your education and open the door to an exciting new career. For more information, visit GoCoastGuard.com, or call 877-NOW-USCG.