Last week, the Coast Guard graduated a number of new recruits. Eighteen them were men and women of color, representing the largest number of African Americans to graduate from the Coast Guard Academy, reports Black Enterprise. Ensign Tyler Exum of Fort Washington, Maryland, who majored in electrical engineering and graduated with honors, received his shoulder boards from Merle Smith, the first African American to graduate from the academy. Joined by their family, friends and well wishers, the graduating men and women gathered around the Honor Wall, which is inscribed with the words, “Who lives here reveres honor, honors duty.” The newly commissioned officers, called ensigns, were given the lieutenant commander shoulder board, a rank usually achieved after 10 years of service in the Coast Guard to “encourage them to stay and become leaders in the Coast Guard,” reports the Day. “The goal is to have you break into the senior leadership of this organization. For you guys to do that, you guys have got to remain vigilant. You got to remain focused, and you got to remain on task,” said Commander Marcus Canady. He is a 2000 graduate of the Coast Guard Academy who is part of the Admissions Minority Outreach Team helping to recruit minorities to come to the academy and mentor them during their time there. The African American class of graduates included five women.