Partnering in education; investing in the future

Partnership in Education emblem

Typically when you try anything for the first time you don’t expect to have an award-winning performance, but that’s just what Sector Field Office Galveston accomplished during their inaugural year of the Partnership in Education program.

SFO Galveston was awarded the 2017 Coast Guard Partnership in Education Award for Best Collaborative Partnership in October. The award recognizes the unit’s collaboration with Gulf Coast Big Brothers and Big Sisters, Pasadena Independent High School, Sea Scouts and Dickinson Independent School District to create student awareness of Coast Guard missions and people while placing an emphasis on personal initiative, responsibility, and individual self-worth.

An aircrew from Air Station Houston offers local students a chance to explore and ask questions about the MH-65 Dolphin helicopter during a tour at SFO Galveston.

An aircrew from Air Station Houston offers local students a chance to explore and ask questions about the MH-65 Dolphin helicopter during a tour at SFO Galveston.

“Our Partnership in Education program has enabled children in the Galveston community to become exposed to the Coast Guard and its missions through positive mentorship,” said Lt. Cmdr. Brian Bachtel, executive officer at SFO Galveston. “Our involvement has helped us to form lasting relationships and greater familiarity with the community we serve.”

SFO Galveston’s involvement with the PIE program was coordinated by Petty Officer 2nd Class Ralph DeBonis, a storekeeper at SFO Galveston.

DeBonis was first exposed to the PIE program at Sector Los Angeles-Long Beach, and after transferring to SFO Galveston, DeBonis knew he wanted to bring the program with him.

“Once I realized my new unit didn’t currently have anything set-up, I knew I wanted to start the process,” DeBonis said. “It’s a great way to give back to the community, and I knew it could make a huge difference in the Galveston area.”

Starting a new program is never without a few challenges, and SFO Galveston faced their fair share in the beginning.

Members of SFO Galveston offer educational support to local students.

Members of SFO Galveston offer educational support to local students.

“A lot of people in Galveston have no idea what the Coast Guard is or that SFO Galveston is even here,” DeBonis said. “One of our biggest challenges was just explaining who we are, and what the program could do for the community.”

After partnering with several schools and youth organizations, the real work began. 18 Coast Guard personnel dedicated over 280 hours to impact the lives of 980 students.

Members accomplished this in a number of different ways from a monthly mentorship program for at-risk youth to career days to various tours of an array of Coast Guard units and assets.

“It was a great opportunity to get to know the local community while allowing the students to see what we do on a daily basis,” said Petty Officer 3rd Class Jacob Schweitzer, a damage controlman at SFO Galveston and an active PIE volunteer. “They were able to get out of the classroom and experience a hands-on work environment where we were able to discuss their futures, and how to achieve their goals.”

The unit has already begun its community outreach efforts for the 2017-2018 school year, and with no plans on slowing their momentum, their investment into the Galveston community’s future is sure to grow.

Coast Guard members give students participating in the Partnership in Education program a tour of the Coast Guard Cutter Clamp at SFO Galveston.

Coast Guard members give students participating in the Partnership in Education program a tour of the Coast Guard Cutter Clamp at SFO Galveston.

Tags: , , , , , ,