Black History Month Feature: Emily Matthews ('17)

Emily Matthews
Emily Matthews

To celebrate Black History Month we will catch up with some current and former Coast Guard Academy cadet-athletes and learn about why they chose the Academy, their experiences here and what Black History Month means to them.

Emily Matthews, a senior from Chandler, Arizona, was a two-year starting center back on the women's soccer team and is an Operations Research and Computer Analysis. She earned both New England Women's and Men's Athletic Conference (NEWMAC) All-conference and Academic All-conference honors this season.

"I chose to attend the Academy because I grew up living a somewhat regimented lifestyle and it seemed to work for me. I wanted to be a part of something bigger than myself," said Matthews. "I had a few family members in the Coast Guard and hearing their cool stories as I grew up made me realize that the best way to be a part of something bigger than myself was to go to the Coast Guard Academy."

Matthews wanted to do something that was not just rewarding, but something that would make a real difference.

"There aren't a whole lot of careers one can choose where you get to see your organization in the breaking news across the country.  I feel that it is extremely important and infinitely rewarding to give back to the country that has allowed me to pursue whatever I want in my life," said Matthews.

When reflecting back on memorable moments at the Academy, Matthews recalls the three soccer games that her dad was able to attend, all three which were overtime wins. Two of those were at the University of Mary Washington Tournament and the Senior Day win over Emerson.

"Winning those three games with him in the stands was a great feeling," said Matthews.  "The other experience that I hold dearly in my heart is when the Class of 2020, my swabs, completed Sea Trials at the conclusion of their Swab Summer.  The Academy is a 200 week program designed to turn 18 year old high school graduates into leaders ready to be Ensigns in the Coast Guard.  I did not feel like much of a leader until that moment.  Knowing that I had been one of the people responsible for getting the 40 members of the Class of 2020 in Whiskey 2 Platoon through Swab Summer and ready to be 4/c cadets was an incredible feeling."

Matthews alludes to the quote from Ronald Reagan "The greatest leader is not necessarily the one who does the greatest things.  He is the one that gets the people to do the greatest things" to sum up the most important leadership skill that she has learned at the Coast Guard Academy.

"Bringing out the best in people and being able to motivate them to be the best they can be has been instrumental in shaping me into the woman I have become today," said Matthews.

Black History Month is important to her because it creates awareness for all people as it celebrates the struggle that individuals such as Rosa Parks, Maya Angelou, and Martin Luther King Jr. went through to allow individuals like her to live the life she has been privileged to live today. 

"This month does have a special meaning in my heart that others may not feel, because I was adopted at birth.  The parents that raised me are caucasian," said Matthews. " Had those people mentioned above, and numerous others, not dedicated their lives fighting for racial equality in our country, I would not have been blessed with the wonderful parents and family that have supported me for the past 21 years."

There have been quite a few coaches who have contributed to her success to which she says she owes a ton of thanks.

"My coaches, Coach Grant, LT Nakagawa, LT Shveda, Coach Giuliano, and Coach Occhialini; thank you so so much for helping mentor and develop me into the best defender I could be. To my team, thank you for being my 24 best friends. Most importantly, thank you to my family, and especially my father, for teaching me that life's not fair, that quitters are never winners, for supporting me in the most challenging times, and loving me unconditionally."