Graduating cadet from Stonington balanced Coast Guard academics with personal goals
New London — What sold Amanda Roy on the Coast Guard Academy was that the Coast Guardsmen she talked to all loved their job.
Basketball initially drew Roy — she was second on the all-time list for 3-point field goals at Stonington High School when she graduated — to the academy, where she's been a member of the women's team for four years.
But it was what she heard from those in the Coast Guard that convinced her to come.
At first, it was a shock. Roy, a straight-A student in high school, said she struggled with academics.
"It wasn't that I wasn't trying," Roy said during a recent interview. "It's just so challenging, especially freshman year is very demanding, and you're getting pulled in every single direction."
This past year was the busiest for Roy, who had to balance a yearlong capstone project and other academic commitments with basketball and being vice president of Spectrum Council, which provides a support network for Lesbian, Gay, Bi-Sexual and Questioning (LGBQ) cadets.
Roy, who is gay, came to the academy in 2013, two years after the repeal of the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy. She hadn't done a lot of research on the issue and wasn't sure what the culture at the academy was going to be like. As a freshman, she approached a senior on the basketball team, who is also gay and was president of the Spectrum Council at the time, about her apprehension.
After talking to her teammate, Roy realized "everybody here is cool about it, and I could just be myself."
She's become passionate about educating and raising awareness about the LGBQ community. "It's more just to help other people and educate other people," she said. For example, she spoke about a friendship with a basketball teammate who had never met someone who is gay before.
"I helped her realized nothing is weird or wrong with gay people," Roy said.
Roy describes herself as the "hype man" for the basketball team, meaning she's spent most of her time on the bench. While most people in her position, given all the other demands at the academy, wouldn't have stayed for four years, for Roy, "it's important to be there for the team."
"Just because I'm not in the game as much, it doesn't mean I'm not helping the team," she said. "I'm still at practice, putting in the work. If I'm working hard, then I'm making my teammates better."
Roy, who said she intends to make a career out of the Coast Guard, is headed to Alameda, Calif., to serve as student engineer on the Coast Guard cutter Stratton, one of the new national security cutters. The Stratton recently returned from a 98-day patrol that yielded the seizure of $50 million worth of cocaine.
On Wednesday, Roy will come full circle, in a sense, when she graduates on Cadet Memorial Field, the same location of her high school graduation. She's admittedly a bit more excited for this graduation.
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