Virgin Islander Nikole Barnes Graduates from Coast Guard Academy

Virgin Islander Nikole Barnes Graduates from Coast Guard Academy

Virgin Islander Nikole Barnes graduated from the U.S. Coast Guard Academy on Wednesday, the culmination of years of hard work and perseverance.

“It was a little nerve-racking, obviously, having all of our bosses onstage, and our main boss, the president,” Barnes said Wednesday after commencement at the academy in New London, Conn. “It was just incredible to finally make it to that moment and a little bittersweet.”

Barnes said it “was a great opportunity” for Trump to talk about the Coast Guard and learn more about the service.

“We’re such a small service and I know it’s not very well known, but I think it was just a great opportunity for the Coast Guard and president to develop that bond,” Barnes said.

Barnes, 23, is a world-class champion sailor who graduated from Antilles School in 2012 and is set to train for a chance to compete in the 2020 Olympics. She described participating in a program for high school students contemplating the Coast Guard Academy and how the program convinced her the rigorous school was the right choice.

Barnes said life at the academy was sometimes grueling, especially during the seven-week “Swab Summer” initiation, but that a strong camaraderie formed among cadets.

“They wake you up yelling at 5:30 in the morning every morning, you’re worked physically, mentally all summer, and you end up with pretty great bonds with your classmates, so it’s pretty incredible,” Barnes said.

In addition to sailing and a demanding academic program, Barnes also participated in several extracurricular clubs, including the pro-environment Sustainability Club, the International Club, and the Women’s Leadership Council.

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