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Press Release

First-Ever Coast Guard College Scholarship Awarded to a Colorado Student


Contact: Tim Carroll, Office 303-556-5136, Cell 303-870-7705

Posted: October 13, 2010



(Denver, Colo.) — Colorado may be hundreds of miles from the nearest ocean, but that didn’t stop Grace Kessler, a junior at Metropolitan State College of Denver, from becoming the first Coloradan accepted into the Coast Guard College Student Pre-Commissioning Initiative (CSPI).

College sophomores can apply for CSPI the program, and if chosen, they receive active duty pay as well as tuition scholarships for their junior and senior years. Then, as an officer in training, they obtain a pay grade of E-3 that can total nearly $3,000 monthly when calculating salary, housing and food allowances.

“The Coast Guard only awards 24 scholarships annually and we have never had a CSPI scholarship awarded to anyone from Colorado,” says U.S. Coast Guard recruiter James Reid. “The program received 36 qualifying applications nationwide in 2010 and it’s very competitive, which is testament to Grace’s achievement.”

Although the program has been in place for several years, there is still low awareness in non-coastal cities. The CSPI program was originally founded in 1989 to increase minority officer representation in the Coast Guard. Today, you don’t have to be a minority to enroll in the program, but you must attend a college with a minority enrollment of at least 25 percent or attend a college that is a member of the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities.  Metro State’s fall 2010 census reported its students of color population at 28.4 percent, which will expand Coast Guard program opportunities at the College, including the Blue 21 Flight Initiative, providing a guarantee of an assignment to flight training upon completion of Officer Candidate School (OCS).

Kessler’s goal is to become a helicopter pilot.

“I’ve always wanted to be a helicopter pilot and my parents never discouraged me from thinking big,” says Kessler. “When I started taking this goal more seriously in high school, my dad encouraged me to consider joining the Coast Guard.”

She completed basic training this past summer as an officer trainee and is currently studying business management at Metro State. Upon graduation, she will enter OCS, after which she will be commissioned as an ensign and obligated to complete at least three years of active duty.

Kessler hopes to be stationed as part of a Miami Cutter Air Crew following graduation from OCS, but she also recognizes their are opportunities to see the world with U.S. Coast Guard operations located globally.

She will have the opportunity to fly in an HH-65 Dolphin helicopter, the same aircraft she hopes to fly, when it lands on the Auraria Campus athletic fields at 11:30a.m. on Oct. 14 as part of the Coast Guard’s community outreach.

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About Metropolitan State College of Denver


With more than 24,000 students, Metro State is Colorado’s leader in educating undergraduate Coloradans. Starting in the fall of 2010, the College is offering master’s degrees in accounting and teacher education, with plans to offer a master’s in social work in fall 2011. The College enrolls the highest number of students of color among four-year colleges in the state. It boasts 67,500 alumni, the bulk of whom remain in Colorado after graduation.