Coast Guard’s Merchant honored as MEAC/SWAC Challenge Legend

WASHINGTON — One of the Coast Guard’s most senior African American female officers added another accolade to an already accomplished career when she was honored as one of six people recognized at the ESPN’s Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference/Southwestern Athletic Conference Challenge Legends Reception in Orlando, Fla., Saturday.

Lt. Cmdr. Zeita Merchant, a Coast Guard congressional fellow in the U.S. House of Representatives, joined Pro Football Hall of Famer Mel Blount, Super Bowl MVP Doug Williams, author Omar Tyree, Kellogg’s senior vice president of Global Nutrition/Corporate Affairs Celeste Clark, and former NFL linebacker and seven-time Pro Bowl player Robert Brazile at the annual reception that honors individuals who graduated from a Historically Black College or University. Each honoree received an HBCU Trailblazer Award in recognition of the impact made in his or her respective career and community.

“It was truly a blessing and humbling experience to be selected as a trailblazer and stand shoulder-to-shoulder with some true legends,” said Merchant, a graduate of Jackson, Mississippi’s Tougaloo College. “I think it is an honor to be personally recognized for my accomplishments; furthermore, it is a great opportunity to showcase the Coast Guard, our missions and the diversity of the service.”

Merchant, who completed her undergraduate schooling by way of the Coast Guard’s College Student Pre-Commissioning Initiative scholarship program, participates in ongoing and extensive outreach with HBCUs. Most notably, her work as a CSPI Ambassador at Spelman College, helped the Coast Guard received its first HBCU Top Supporter Award in 2010.

[amazon-product]1591146720[/amazon-product]A community leader and volunteer, Merchant has organized numerous community service initiatives such as the RIPPLE Institute, whose mission is to offer youth an opportunity to learn the skills needed to compete in the 21st-century workforce. She also serves on the executive boards of the National Council of Negro Women’s Women of Defense and the National Association of African Americans in the Department of Homeland Security. She is an active participant in the Congressional Black Caucus, the National Society of Black Engineers, and the Coast Guard Commandant’s Diversity Advisory Council.

Merchant has earned both a Master of Quality Systems Management from the National Graduate School and a Master of Public Administration in Environmental and Emergency Management from George Washington University here. She is currently pursuing a doctorate in Business Administration and is on track to earn the Ph.D. in summer 2011.

“My dictum is ‘true leadership is servanthood,’” said Merchant. “My true passion is to educate and help others. This was a unique opportunity where I got recognized for doing what I love. It is a humbling experience and truly a blessing.”

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