To celebrate Black History Month we will catch up with some current and former Coast Guard Academy cadet-athletes and learn about why they chose the Academy, their experiences here and what Black History Month means to them.
Geremy Kendrick, a senior from Gainesville, Florida, was a three-year member of the Coast Guard football team and was the starting tight end this season after serving as the manager of the men's basketball team as a freshman.
Kendrick, an Operations Research and Computer Analysis major, chose to attend the Coast Guard Academy because he wanted a new experience in life. "I wanted to go to a place that was extremely challenging and be free to learn my own lessons and make my own mistakes as a person," said Kendrick. "Before college, I didn't know the world outside of Gainesville, Florida. I had never lived anywhere else in my adolescence."
His Naval Science Instructor at the NJROTC program, LCDR (ret.) Byers Hickmon, always believed that he had potential to be a special kid. "He believed in me even when I found it hard to believe in myself. He helped me through my college application processes with the Naval Academy and an NROTC scholarship at Harvard"
As Geremy went through the process, Hickmon started talking to him about possibly applying to the Coast Guard Academy to which he immediately dissented to because he had worked his entire high school career to be accepted into the Naval Academy or Harvard.
Geremy said he reluctantly applied thinking that he would never in a million years go to this school, but when acceptance letters started going out he looked at that infamous white admissions pamphlet and knew by God's providence that he was meant to attend the Coast Guard Academy.
"There was a purpose that I was meant to fulfill here and I packed my bag and came to a place that I had never visited, in a state that I had never been in. I was poised for an adventure," said Kendrick.
Kendrick comes from a football family as one of his uncles played for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Florida Gators and another uncle played for the San Francisco 49ers and the Florida Gators while his brother played at the University of Florida.
He however played basketball in high school, but knew football and thought it would be an easy transition because he knew a lot about the game. "I saw how the members of the football team here formed a brotherhood almost like a fraternity, so playing was something that I thought would be beneficial and I joined the team," said Kendrick. "I already had football in my blood so I figured, "Why not?".
Black History is important to Geremy and not just in the month of February. "Black history is important to me year round and the history of my people holds very special meaning. Furthermore, Black History Month is one more opportunity that I get to educate those around me on what black history and why I have so much pride in it."
"Black History Month is a time that we as a country can reflect on black pioneers and realize what black excellence is. I feel like sometimes in society, we forget that black is beautiful, Black Lives Do Matter, and that we are capable beyond our wildest dreams. We are excellent," said Kendrick. "Black History Month is a time we can remember our past while progressively moving towards our future. I am even more overjoyed when I think of the people who paved the way for me to enjoy the things that I enjoy as a black man."
Kendrick grew up on the East side of Gainesville, which by many accounts is not the best of areas. His mother passed away when he was very young and a lot of who he is today is the product of wanting to make her proud. His dad remarried, and his step mother taught him a lot about having a specific mindset.
In the school system, Geremy grew up with all types of kids. Some of these kids didn't want to do anything in life, while others had dreams through the roof.
"In my heart, I knew that I did not want to stay on the East Side of Gainesville my entire life, doing the same things that I had been doing since high school and keeping that mindset and trying to influence others to have that mindset was one of the hardest things to do. My father didn't necessarily have much but I did not let that stop me. I was determined to succeed if I had to give my left arm and ear lobe to do it. That's just the type of mindset that he raised my brothers and I with. He will gladly tell you that he has not had to pay a dime for any of our schooling, he hasn't had a lick of trouble out of us, and he has never had to visit any of us at a jailhouse."
Giving back to his country means everything to him. "To go out and be able to directly or indirectly save a life in peril is a unique experience that I would not trade for the world. If for nothing else, I love serving because to many, I am a role model," said Kendrick. "I, especially within my community, am viewed as someone who they would want their kids to emulate. To me that is one of the most powerful things because I am an influence for something positive in a world where there are so many negative influences that lead our youth astray. It is an honor and responsibility that I do not take lightly."
He has learned valuable leadership lessons during his time at the Academy and those lessons will stay with him the rest of his life. "Throughout my cadet career I have had ample opportunity to lead my peers and those behind me. It has been a great experience. I have learned that you can't talk about the example, you must be the example in everything that you do. If you want to be great, you have to be relentless. You have to want it more than the guy next to you. These are lessons that I have learned while in the barracks and on the football field."
Some of his most memorable experiences come from joking around with teammates Jacob Brown and Tyler Exum, both on and off the field. "Both of those guys as well as the rest of my group of friends are the reason why I am still here. It is true that the friendships that you forge while here last for a lifetime."