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Civil Rights News | Oct. 30, 2023

Three Coast Guard Members Honored by LATINA Style

By Patrick Ferraris, Civil Rights Directorate

LATINA Style recognized three Coast Guard members as recipients of the 2023 LATINA Style Distinguished Military Service Award:  

Petty Officer First Class Monserrat Lazaro Rivera, Intelligence Specialist, District 14,  

Petty Officer Second Class Rosa Gomes Gavidia, Marine Science Technician, Sector Juneau  

Lt. j.g. Melanie Arroyave, Recruitment Action Unit Officer, Sector Virginia   

This honor recognizes women in the military, civilian workforce, and Service Academies who have influenced and enhanced the role of Latinas in their organizations.  

About the awardees:  

Petty Officer Second Class Rosa Gomes Gavidia

Petty Officer Second Class Rosa Gomes Gavidia’s mother emigrated to the United States from El Salvador in 1978 to flee war and instability in the country. Relocating to El Sereno, California, her mother raised Gomes Gavidia and her two siblings by herself, always emphasizing the importance of their Latino heritage and instilling a deep pride in their Salvadorean roots.

From a young age, Gomes Gavidia has had a passion for the outdoors and environmental sciences, which only increased after a high school and college internship with the National Park Service. She also wanted to give back to the country that provided so much for her and her family through military service. After graduating college, she was able to bridge the connection between these two focuses.

“When considering my military future, I visited a Coast Guard recruiting office and learned about the Service’s Marine Environmental Protection mission,” she stated. “I then found my passion to follow through and pursue a career as a Marine Science Technician.”

As a Marine Science Technician, Gomes Gavidia supports multiple maritime missions, including marine environmental response, maritime security and safety, and enforcement of federal marine environmental and safety regulations. 

During the award period, Gomes Gavidia became both the Partnership in Education (PIE) Coordinator and the coordinator for Sector Alaska’s Hispanic Heritage Month observance. For PIE, Gomes Gavidia not only volunteered herself but also promoted opportunities for Coast Guard members to volunteer in the local community and make considerable impacts towards the lives of hundreds of children through activities like tutoring and STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math) projects. Gomes Gavidia also led the Hispanic Heritage Month observance, where she promoted cultural inclusivity and understanding of the diverse Hispanic community within Sector Juneau. Gomes Gavidia also takes on collateral duties aside from her regular duties to assist her peers as an ASIST (Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training) trained member and on one of two facilitators in Sector SEAK.  She also is 1 of 8 VA (victim advocates) that has taken over a few cases to assist her peers in need and has participated and facilitated in the Kids Don’t Float program teaching kids the importance of safety in the water in Southeast Alaska.

“It is an honor to be a Latina and to represent the Coast Guard,” Gomes Gavidia stated. “I am mostly proud to represent my family's roots through a Service that gives me the opportunity to do so. I am thankful for all those mentors that see me and those that I represent, and the potential we have when given the opportunity.”

On receiving the award, Gomes Gavidia noted:

“When I found out I had been selected for this award, I could not believe it. I was an awe, truly. I am humbled to know that, even when you think nobody is watching or what you do is not making a difference, people do see you. They understand and they are thankful for your efforts to make a change for the better!”

Petty Officer First Class Monserrat Lazaro Rivera  

At a young age, Petty Officer 1st Class Lazaro Rivera immigrated to the United States with her family from Mexico. She arrived with her parents in Martinsburg, West Virginia, where they hoped to find a better life.

For Lazaro Rivera, the transition wasn't without its challenges, and the language barrier proved the primary obstacle. In the years following their move, Lazaro Rivera often translated for her parent’s juggled academics, extracurricular activities, and more. Martinsburg was a small town, but Lazaro Rivera had big aspirations.

"My parents' sacrifices and resilience instilled in me the belief that I could achieve my dreams and explore horizons far beyond our small town," she stated. "I wanted to serve the country that afforded me and my family so many opportunities. By high school, I knew I wanted to pursue a career in law enforcement and the Coast Guard would allow me to gain the necessary experience to reach my goals." 

As a current Coast Guard member, Lazaro Rivera is making waves as an inspirational figure. During the award period, Lazaro Rivera strengthened international operations and partnerships across the Pacific Ocean by leveraging her maritime intelligence expertise to help build capacity for Pacific Island Nation’s ability to identify and track fishing vessels inside Pacific Island exclusive economic zones (EEZs). Lazaro Rivera also promoted active participation in the D14 Leadership and Diversity Advisory Council, serving as the groups Secretary and collaborating with recruiting offices to hold outreach activities aimed to raised awareness about the Coast Guard and its career opportunities. 

“I am proud to be part of the Coast Guard,” she remarked. “My experiences taught me that, regardless of rank or background, every member can positively impact the Service.” 

Lazaro Rivera recently accomplished a significant milestone when she became one of the first college graduates in her family, completing her bachelor's degree while on active duty.

Lt. j.g. Melanie Arroyave

(Excerpt from Official Coast Guard Press Release)

Lt. J.g. Melanie Arroyave, a native of Jersey City, New Jersey, has consistently demonstrated exemplary dedication and leadership as a junior officer at Sector Virginia since reporting aboard in December 2021. In her role as the Recruitment Action Unit Officer representing the Atlantic Area Commander, she organized a multitude of recruiting events, including two nationally televised engagements that reached over 30,000 viewers. She also served as a panelist for the U.S. Coast Guard Academy’s Hispanic Heritage Month, where she addressed an audience of 300 cadets. She fostered robust relationships with Minority Serving Institutions, skillfully coordinated recruiting events, and made meaningful contributions to school-wide programs. Additionally, she played a pivotal role in Sector Virginia’s Leadership Diversity Advisory Council, leading the successful planning and execution of the Hispanic Heritage Month celebration and a groundbreaking transgender military service panel. 

Arroyave’s achievements extend to her role as an executive board member of the Coast Guard Women’s Advisory Board, where she provides vital recommendations to the Commandant regarding recruitment, retention, advancement, and the well-being of women serving in the Coast Guard. Her active involvement in shaping policy and fostering inclusivity exemplifies her dedication to enhancing the Coast Guard’s work environment. 

“I do feel a sense of responsibility to proudly represent my culture, both as a Latina and a Coast Guard officer,” Arroyave, a Colombian-American, said. “It’s a unique culture within a unique culture and I feel seen and honored to be recognized for that." During her previous tenure as a recruiter in Newark, New Jersey, Arroyave succeeded in recruiting and enlisting five minority females, contributing significantly to the Coast Guard’s ongoing efforts to enhance diversity and inclusion.

Civil Rights awards like the LATINA Style Distinguished Military Service Award helps to maximize the Coast Guard's overall mission effectiveness through recognition of members' accomplishments and contributions to Civil Rights and Equal Opportunity in minority communities and Partnership in Education (PIE) programs. Anyone within the Coast Guard can nominate someone who is deserving of its Civil Rights awards. Visit the civil rights awards page for a list of the awards and for more information on how to nominate deserving individuals.