To celebrate Black History Month we will catch up with some Coast Guard Academy cadet-athletes and learn about why they chose the Academy, their experiences here and what Black History Month means to them.
Micah Baldez, a sophomore from Lower Gywneed, Pa, is a starting guard on the Bears basketball team. This season he started all 24 games and averaged 11.8 points per game to go with his 4.4 rebounds while leading the team with 78 assists to go with 27 steals.
He chose to attend the Coast Guard Academy because of his love to serve people. " I thought the best way I could use my skills and talents as well as serve was being an officer. The reason I chose the Coast Guard over the other services was because of their humanitarian mission," said Baldez. " The Coast Guard Academy is one of the best engineering schools and that fit great for me given my desire to major in Civil Engineering."
His favorite moment thus far at the Academy was a game earlier this season when his team trailed Wheaton by 20 points, 18 at halftime only to rally and beat Wheaton 78-77 in the final seconds.
Baldez inspires others both on and off the court and that is his greatest leadership quality. "I am a very optimistic person and I believe that almost anything is possible if you are determined and truly believe it can be done. I have learned ways to encourage and build others up so that they feel the same way," said Baldez. " I want everyone to feel that they can contribute to whatever the end goal is but, most importantly, I want everyone to be happy in doing so. While that may not happen every time, it is my goal to get as many people to feel that way that I can."
Black History Month is very significant to Baldez because it honors the many achievements and contributions of African-Americans to our country. "All the black men and women who weren't content with their situation and made a stand for both themselves and their people are recognized for their courage. Their perseverance eventually earned them the equality and freedom they deserved," said Baldez. "This helped close a huge divide in our country and it encouraged other people to stand up for themselves when they were not being treated fairly."
"My grandfather was a victim of inequality and unfair treatment many times in his life, especially in the workplace. Despite being more qualified professionally and experientially than many of his counterparts he was often denied promotions and great opportunities simply based on the color of his skin. His willingness to keep working and overcome these obstacles in order to give his family a better life inspires me to be the best I can be no matter who or what tries to stop me."
He is happy to see the strides that both the Academy and the entire Coast Guard have made to become much more diverse over the years. "I think it is great but diversity brings a lot more perspective and views to situations. However, there have been times when people have said or done something offensive towards me. Most of the time it is not intentional and honestly it is because they don't know how their words and actions offend. Sometimes it gets frustrating having to deal with repeated offensive words and behaviors," added Baldez. "It used to anger me but I've learned that I need to understand that some people come from very homogeneous societies where most of the people look and live very similarly."
Baldez has learned to speak up when he feels someone is being disrespectful. "Now it is much easier to deal with situations where someone does something offensive because I simply correct them and let them know what was wrong and how it might be seen as offensive."
He is always someone who looks out for those close to him and that is why the Coast Guard was the choice for him. "It is extremely rewarding for me to be able to give back to my country because I am able to have a significant role in maintaining the safety and well-being of my country. It feels great to be a part of an organization whose purpose is to ensure the security and safety of hundreds of millions of people," added Baldez. " I love my country and it has been pretty good to me so far, so I am honored to give back to it and keep my family and friends safe in the process."
We thank Micah and all those who serve continue to protect our great nation.