After serving in the U.S. Marine Corps for four years and seeing other branch operations, Yeoman First Class Michael Clark believes that a career path in the U.S. Coast Guard is the best path.

“In my opinion, the Coast Guard has the best quality of life with military benefits. We serve our community directly and protect the United States,” Clark said, emphasizing the lifesaving missions that the Coast Guard performs every day.

Clark recently visited Perry Meridian High School in Indianapolis, Ind., to talk to student athletes about the benefits and opportunities beyond graduation in the Coast Guard.

“One of the biggest advantages of the Coast Guard is that you can job shadow before choosing a career all while being enlisted,” he said. “The Coast Guard is a branch where you can truly make an educated decision on what career suits you best.”

Clark met with freshman and sophomore student athletes from almost every sport representing the school, including the baseball, basketball, track, softball, soccer, wrestling, football, and cheer teams.

Paul Douglass, assistant athletic director at Perry Meridian High School, said the casual, student-led leadership program, facilitated by DistrictWON, a U.S. Coast Guard partner for marketing and local engagement, allowed the students to ask a lot of questions and connect with someone who was able to provide a first-hand account of service.

“Michael Clark was an excellent ambassador for the Coast Guard,” Douglass said. “He was able to provide personal relevance to the life changing opportunities that exist through the Coast Guard. By being young, energetic, and not a school employee, his advice about having a plan post high school, and setting up one’s future connected with students that otherwise might tune out the same information.”

Clark added that a lack of information and preconceived notions about life in the military has led to several challenges in recruitment efforts among high school students.

“One of the biggest challenges is that kids in our AOR [area of responsibility] are dead set on going to college and not interested in serving even after being told about tuition assistance, etc…” he said. “As far as preconceptions go, there is very little known about the Coast Guard in our AOR.”

Clark continued that acknowledging these gaps and meeting with students face-to-face can only bolster the next class of servicemembers.

 “It is important to increase the diversity in the Coast Guard to provide a level of comfort and ease to the new generation joining,” Clark said.