CGA Cadet Renae Sanchez went from Idaho farm to service at sea
New London ― U.S. Coast Guard Academy First Class Cadet Renae Sanchez’s family roots date to when the original Spanish explorers to Mexico ventured north to settle in what became New Mexico.
Her parents moved to landlocked Caldwell, Idaho after they graduated from college. As kids, Renae and her older brother, Tyler, raised farm animals, joined 4-H and showed at county fairs.
But when her brother’s friend came home to visit after he graduated from the Coast Guard Academy in New London in 2019, she talked to him about his experiences. Her grandfather, who had worked in South Carolina, spoke highly of the Coast Guard.
“Definitely, the appeal of the humanitarian mission, saving lives rather than taking lives, that was a big appeal for me,” Sanchez said. She applied online, was accepted, “sight unseen.”
As a freshman, she joined the Compañeros Club, one of the largest cultural clubs, and helped plan events to educate fellow cadets about Hispanic culture. It starts with food ― quesadillas, tamales and tacos ― to draw a crowd.
This past summer, Sanchez served as battalion commander, the highest-ranking academy cadet. As a leader, Sanchez realized she was a role model, for fellow cadets, especially those of Hispanic origin, young students and particularly girls.
“I didn’t realize the power that representation has,” Sanchez said. “Obviously, with my last name being Sanchez, my last name is one of the first names (new cadets) learn to associate with.”
As she walked across campus hearing courteous greetings from fellow cadets, she noticed Hispanic cadets greeted her with the more Spanish pronunciation of her name. It made her smile.
“This summer was really special for me,” Sanchez said.