Editor’s Note: You can watch the Class of 2023 graduation ceremony here.
The Class of 2023 arrived at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy on July 1, 2019, just before the Covid-19 pandemic. Now, these 247 graduates are heading out to Coast Guard units across the nation to serve as the future leaders of the service.
The class is made up of approximately 42% women, 34% underrepresented minorities, and 3 international cadets from the countries of the Philippines, Costa Rica, and Mauritius.
The Distinguished Graduate is Christine Groves, a Mechanical Engineering major from Austin, Tx., who is assigned to the CGC Polar Star. Groves is the first cadet to receive dual scholarships after being awarded a Truman Scholarship in 2022, and a Fulbright Scholarship earlier this year.
Here are three other stand-out graduates who excelled in the academic, military, and athletic aspects of the 200-week program and are sure to have an impact on the service they are about to enter.
Cadet Teegan Cordova will report aboard the CGC Isaac Mayo in Key West, Fla.
Cadet Cordova is a government major from Littleton, Colo., who tied with another classmate for the title of Honor Graduate, an award given to the cadet with the highest overall academic grade point average. She has a near perfect academic grade point average, and the lowest course grade she received during the four-year program was an A-.
According to her academic advisor Dr. Alex Waid, Head of the Culture and Languages Department at the Academy, “She has a rare ability to learn how to learn in varied situations. In other words, she has an intellect flexible enough that learning calculus-based physics comes as naturally as criminal justice or Latin American cultural perspectives.”
“She is honest about weaknesses that she needs to shore up and keeps herself accountable to the plans she makes to do so, while continuing to use her strengths to the best advantage.”
Cordova also served in the Cadet Peer Support (CPS) program, which trains select seniors and juniors to support members of the Corps of Cadets who experience issues with mental health and emotional well-being and can act as liaisons between those cadets and the Center for Counseling & Development at the Academy.
Cadet Tyler Ma will report aboard the CGC Bertholf in Alameda, Calif.
Cadet Ma is a management major from Bridgewater, N.J., and a leading member of the Asian Pacific American Council, which helps cadets develop an appreciation for the diversity in the Coast Guard workforce by giving the Corps of Cadets a chance to learn about and celebrate the holidays and traditions of different Asian cultures.
He was also part of a cadet team that conducted the Coast Guard Retention Study as their capstone senior project. The survey team received nearly 5,000 responses from current and former Coast Guard members as they set out to capture information on why members have left the Coast Guard or would consider leaving, and what motivates them to stay.
Findings from the study are expected to be a valuable source of information for policy makers to understand the main factors that influence members’ decisions.
While thinking about what being a part of the project taught him, Ma said, “My goals for the future will be centered around truly listening to the voices of those working with me, and inserting myself in ways that may improve the quality of life for those I serve with. Whether its professionally on an evaluation report, or personally such as giving vocal recognition, or even just making some coffee and having a chat, the data has shown me that it is these actions that make the biggest impact on a member’s perception of the service.”
Cadet Michelle Kwafo who will report aboard the CGC Tahoma in Newport, R.I.
Cadet Kwafo is a Cyber Systems major from Ewing, N.J. She is the Captain of the Women’s Track and Field Team, and a leading member of the Genesis Council.
The Genesis Council provides the Corps of Cadets with opportunities to learn about and experience the issues that affect the African-American community today. Since it was founded in 1973 as the first diversity council at the Academy, the Council has brought cadets from different backgrounds and walks of life together for positive discourse and personal growth.
Kwafo leaves the Academy as a two-time All-American, and holds nine school records in Track and Field, more than any other Academy athlete in the history of the athletic program.
“Over the course of my time at the Academy,” Kwafo said, “I have developed a growth mindset, which has allowed me to not view challenges and struggles as setbacks, but instead has enabled me to view them as an opportunity for growth.”