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 works in every day.

Clark recently visited Greenwood Community High School in Greenwood, 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 9th-12th grade student athletes from the school’s track and field, football, basketball, volleyball, swimming, cross country, and bowling teams.

Lindsey Glaze, athletic assistant at Greenwood Community High School, said the key aspects of the information session, facilitated by DistrictWON, a U.S. Coast Guard partner for marketing and local engagement, were encouraging leadership in a team environment and taking accountability.

“I think it was nice that they shared stories about their high school days and the different activities that they were a part of and what decisions led them to enter the Coast Guard,” Glaze said of the visit.

She added that she really enjoyed watching the students interact with Clark and his partner as they were friendly and relatable. In fact, the program was so engaging for her students that she recommends the presentation to other schools.

“The military is all about leadership, respecting others, taking accountability and many other important factors that can later play a huge role if they then choose to enter the workforce,” Glaze said. “College is a great option for certain students but it’s not the only option and I think that is important to understand.”

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 [area of responsibility] (AOR) 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.