ORANGEBURG, S.C. — Graduating college debt-free and having a job lined up is an appealing prospect for some South Carolina State University students.
De'Marco Poole is a graduating senior at SC state. He says he never thought of joining the military until the U.S. Coast Guard Memorandum of Agreement Signing and Partnership Outreach Summit piqued his interest in advancing his career in mechanical engineering.
"Now that I'm at this point, let's do the research and be well informed," Poole said. "I just made contacts with the three panelists who were there, and I will be picking their brains over the next couple of days."
According to SC State officials, the agreement between the institution and the Coast Guard has been in place since the 1980s. It offers students a two-year free scholarship when they are juniors if they agree to join the U.S. Coast Guard for five years.
"While the Coast Guard is a military service, it's not part of the department of the defense," explained Col. Alexander Conyer, SC State University's Interim President. "It's a service of homeland security. They're in charge of saving lives, protecting our waters, and defending our waterways to prevent bad acts from reaching our lands."
The Coast Guard also renews a partnership with 21 other participating HBCUs and Minority Servicing Institutions (MSIs) every two years.
Atlantic Area Coast Guard Deputy Commander Keith Smith says recruiting these students helps diversify the military branch.
"The Coast Guard focuses on them because of the diversity inclusion," explained Smith. "We understand that as a value in an organization. Having a diverse workforce helps become a better organization overall."
Panelists with the Coast Guard talked to students about the various benefits of joining. Poole says he will be 100 percent committed to joining after he does his research with the leaders he met during the summit.
"One of the things that they showed us was a video of them on boats and jumping out helicopters," said Poole. "However, one of the important things they talked about was the various opportunities the Coast Guard presents. For instance, the different avenues you can move through. That to me was interesting."
SC State students interested in joining the program can register by visiting the U.S Coast Guard's website.