Commentary | July 23, 2021

RISE up at the CGA: Respect and Inclusion Summer Experience 

By Petty Officer 3rd Class Matthew Thieme, U.S. Coast Guard Academy External Affairs 

Like any college student attending a new school, there can often be anxiety in starting a new journey as a young adult. For cadets arriving at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy, there is also the added difficulty of transitioning from a civilian life to a military one. 

The Academy boasts a rigorous training program aimed at creating leaders of character to serve as officers in the U.S. Coast Guard. Day One is the symbolic first step in that journey, but not every cadet comes from a background that offers stable footing. The Respect and Inclusion Summer Experience - or RISE - is an Academy program aimed at making sure all cadets start their Coast Guard career on the right foot. 

RISE kicks off days before the official start of Swab Summer, giving future swabs and their families time to meet other swabs, become familiar with the Academy grounds, and to see the area surrounding the campus. 

Richelle Johnson, a 1991 Academy graduate, currently serves as the Deputy Director of Inclusion and Diversity at the Academy, and is in charge of the RISE program. 

“RISE is an opportunity for swabs to get a behind the scenes look at the inner workings of the Academy,” said Johnson. “They meet faculty, staff, upperclassmen, and active-duty members of the Coast Guard.” 

Most participants are the first in their families to attend college, identify as a member of an underrepresented minority, are international students, or just haven’t had an opportunity to visit the Academy before. 

While RISE is open to all swabs upon receiving their appointment to the Academy, the program is targeted towards people who might need additional support in adjusting to the lifestyle at the Academy, said Johnson. “It’s a great way to build a sense of community.” 

While the swabs are responsible for their own success, RISE ensures they are offered the support needed throughout the experience. 

“RISE is in direct support of Coast Guard Academy Superintendent Rear Adm. Bill Kelly’s vision of an all-inclusive environment where your race, gender, ethnicity, and sexual orientation are not predictors of your success.” Johnson explains. “The Academy is very transparent about the difficulty of the training program, and RISE is a way to help talk about that from angles that cadets experience, athletic, academic, and of course the military aspect.” 

Participants in the RISE program have demonstrated an exceptionally high success rate through their swab summer experience, maintaining a 98% completion record, and is a key program to help students succeed in their goal of becoming a future leader in the Coast Guard.