Eight Toledo teenagers have become the nation's first high school students sworn in to the Coast Guard's auxiliary unit.
The students from Maritime Academy of Toledo were sworn in Wednesday by Rear Adm. June Ryan, commander of the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Seaway region, during a brief ceremony at the Toledo Club.
The students will be able to participate in air rescues, culinary services, search and rescue, and other Coast Guard duties. The program is designed to help prepare the students in future military careers, if that's what they choose, or help with college readiness, said Maritime Academy Principal Aaron Lusk.
Paul Hurst, 17, a sophomore at the school, said he is interested in joining the Coast Guard, inspired by a long family history of military service.
"I figured I'd take a different path," he said. "There are a lot of veterans in my family. I have a family member from every single branch, but I'll be the first grandkid to go into the Coast Guard."
The program will soon be open to all high school students. These students who were chosen to participate first had to have good grade-point averages and be recognized as good, disciplined students, Mr. Lusk said.
The students had to be fingerprinted and "fill out paperwork the size of the Bible," the Hurst youth said.
The students were fitted with Coast Guard uniforms, said Delilah Perez, 17, a junior.
Admiral Ryan, who also spoke to students Wednesday morning, enlisted in the Coast Guard Reserves in 1982 and graduated from officer candidate school in 1985.
"You look back and you go, 'Holy cow, I'm a captain.' And you look back and, 'Holy cow, I'm an admiral,' " she said.
When Admiral Ryan enlisted in the Coast Guard, women made up about 12 percent of all service members. Now, about 17 percent of "coasties" are women.
She said that, as a child, she had no idea what she wanted to do with her life, which is what she always tells students when she speaks to them. She decided to join the Coast Guard after seeing a commercial advertising the opportunity.
"It's OK to not know what you want to do," she said. "I have an eighth grader and she doesn't know what she wants to do, and that's OK. It's just opportunity."