Coast Guard Partnership in Education celebrates 20th anniversary

Kodiak Middle School 8th grader Deborah Bitanga won Best in Show in the Coast Guard Partnership in Education 20th Anniversary Art Contest with her submission "Living Marine Resources." Click the image above to view the rest of the winners. U.S. Coast Guard illustration by Deborah Bitanga.

Kodiak Middle School 8th grader Deborah Bitanga won Best in Show in the Coast Guard Partnership in Education 20th Anniversary Art Contest with her submission "Living Marine Resources." Click the image above to view the rest of the winners. U.S. Coast Guard illustration by Deborah Bitanga.

For the past 20 years, the Coast Guard has teamed up with local school systems, community organizations and businesses in an effort to enhance educational opportunities and instill a sense of core values into children across the country. Since 1991, the Coast Guard Partnership in Education program has seen more than 14,000 active duty, reserve, civilian and auxiliary personnel contribute more than 200,000 hours of their own time, primarily in communities with large underserved populations, serving as mentors, tutors and life coaches.

In celebration of the 20th anniversary of PIE, the program sponsored a contest challenging PIE students of all ages to depict the Coast Guard’s marine living resources mission through art. Deborah Bitanga, an eighth grade student from Alaska’s Kodiak Middle School, took home best-in-show honors for her art work.

“People should practice recycling as a lifestyle to sustain the world’s fisheries,” Deborah explained when asked to interpret the meaning of her submission. “Together, we can work and learn together to promote marine resources conservation in our community to stop illegal fishing and promote a healthy ecosystem.”

KODIAK, Alaska - Petty Officer 3rd Class Michael Kage, of Communication Station Kodiak who volunteers at Kodiak Middle School, and Deborah Bitanga, an 8th grader at Kodiak Middle School, take a moment for a photo Thursday, May 5, 2011. Bitanga won the Coast Guard's 2011 Partner's in Education art contest with an entry representing the Coast Guard's living marine resource mission and some of Bitanga's other art is pictured here. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Sara Francis.

Petty Officer 3rd Class Michael Kage, of Communication Station Kodiak who volunteers at Kodiak Middle School, and Deborah Bitanga, an 8th grader at Kodiak Middle School, with some of Bitanga's art. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Sara Francis.

For Petty Officer 3rd Class Michael Kage, PIE represents more than an opportunity to share the Coast Guard story with the students of Kodiak Middle School, where he volunteers. It is also an opportunity to share the core values of the Coast Guardsman with children who may be looking for direction in their lives.

“I truly believe the PIE program provides the students with positive role models,” said Kage. “Some of the kids I work with may not have good role models in their home life.”

“When a student is struggling with a subject and you help tutor them, there is a moment when “the light bulb comes on” and they realize they are able to succeed and have worth. That is an amazing feeling to know you helped them, even if just a little bit.”

Click here to learn more about the PIE program or here for more on the 20th anniversary art contest.

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