By Catherine Layton (Kwajalein Hourglass Associate Editor)May 31, 2011
KWAJALEIN ATOLL, Marshall Islands -- Commencement ceremonies are gearing up around the United States, and eager students are anticipating a major step in their lives. Graduation from college marks more than one single accomplishment; graduates are marking their achievements of their lives both academically and personally. Diplomas from institutes of higher learning illustrate to the world that goals were set and accomplished, hurdles were bounded over and dreams came to fruition.
Jefferson Bobo, a citizen of the Republic of the Marshall Islands, graduated from Kwajalein Jr./Sr. High School. He was one of five children from Ebeye to participate in the Ri-Katak program that year. Bobo didn't just attend school; he jumped in with both feet and participated in every way possible. He was a member of the National Honor Society and the choir, played trombone in the concert and jazz bands, was a writer for the school newspaper and played on the volleyball and basketball teams. He did all this and maintained an honor roll grade point average throughout his high school career, graduating in 2007 with high honors.
Upon his high school graduation, Bobo was accepted into the International Cadet Program with the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in New London, Conn. Throughout his time at the academy, Bobo averaged 17 credits per semester and was a member of the International Council, serving as president for his last year. He was also on the academy's boxing team, becoming co-captain in
his senior year. In 2010 and 2011, he represented the academy at the National Collegiate Boxing Association Championships in the 125-pound weight class.
When asked about his time at the academy, Bobo fondly describes working with the fleet. "I will say that summers are really fun. Every cadet only gets three weeks of leave during the summer. The rest is spent either at a Coast Guard unit, or at the academy doing military training. I got to travel a lot during the summers and do amazing things that the operational Coast Guard does out in the fleet," he said.
Bobo continued, "This past summer I was assigned for 12 weeks to a cutter called the USCGC Resolute, home-ported in St. Petersburg, Fla. We went underway for seven weeks in the Gulf of Mexico. For four weeks, we were the on-scene commander at the BP Oil Spill at the Deep Water Horizon site, so I got to see that event up close and help out. The other two weeks we did alien
migrant interdiction operations and drug patrols in the Straits of Florida. We actually interdicted some migrants from Cuba fl eeing to Florida. It was something I will never forget."
Throughout his four years, Bobo has worked hard, studied hard and stayed engaged with all aspects of the academy experience. He notes that without the camaraderie of his fellow cadets, it would have been difficult.
"Making good friends is by far the best thing at the academy. I would not have made it through without friends I made," he points out.
On May 18, Bobo will graduate with a bachelor's degree in civil engineering, and will be the first person from the RMI to receive a degree from a U.S. military academy. A highlight of the 130th U.S. Coast Guard Academy graduation ceremony will be keynote speaker President Barack Obama, scheduled to give the commencement address. A delegation from the RMI has been invited to attend the event, consisting of the RMI President Jurelang Zedkaia and First Lady Hannah Zedkaia; Phillip Muller, Ambassador to the United Nations; Charles Paul, Charge d'affaires from the RMI Embassy; Martha Campbell, U.S. Ambassador to the RMI; and John Silk,
Minister of Foreign Affairs of the RMI. President Zedkaia will take part in the ceremony as well, having time at the podium to speak to Cadet Bobo directly.
After graduation, Bobo will have some time off before starting work for the RMI government. "My governmentb has offered me several jobs and is letting me choose where I want to work. Each job that has been offered reflects what I have learned at the Academy, either with my military officer training background or my background as a civil engineer undergraduate."
Although Bobo’s future is bright, he hasn't forgotten his past. The only thing more impressive than Bobo's accomplishments is his sincerity when he states, "I would like to thank the community, including my teachers, Ri-Katak lunch program donors, bus drivers, etc., for their help while I was going through the Ri-Katak program."