WASHINGTON, Jan. 16, 2015 – Coast Guard Petty Officer 1st Class
Danielle Wnek, a crewmember at Coast Guard Air Station Atlantic
City, New Jersey, attended 13 schools before graduating from high
school in 2000.
Wnek was born in Cleveland, where she said
she had a tough upbringing, surrounded by drug use and instability.
“I did not come from a career-oriented family,” said Wnek.
“After high school I hung around for a while, but by the time I was
21 years old, I was tired of living with insecurity. I wanted to
break the cycle I was stuck in, and do something better with my
Wnek said she changed course in 2003 when she enlisted
in the Coast Guard.
“I joined the Coast Guard to change the
path I was on, to better shape my future,” she said.
after more than 11 years of Coast Guard service, Wnek is using her
off-duty time to help children build foundations for confident and
Coast Guard Petty Officer 1st Class Danielle Wnek at Air Station
Atlantic City, N.J., Dec. 17, 2014. (U.S. Coast Guard photo)
Wnek said she looks back on the influence her upbringing
had on her outlook toward life before she joined the Coast
Guard. Growing up with a narrow life vision inspired her,
she said, to help educate children about opportunity.
To accomplish this, Wnek established a Cloverbuds chapter in Cape May
County, New Jersey. An extension of the national 4-H club,
Cloverbuds is is intended for children younger than 8 years
“I started Cloverbuds because I looked back at
my childhood and realized kids need a different perspective
than the one I grew up with,” Wnek said. “You don't need to
wait until you're an adult to learn about compassion, hard
work, responsibility and opportunity.”
program is an opportunity for children to get an early start
on a positive life, she said.
“The Cloverbuds and 4-H
programs are about learning a sense of community, and giving
kids something safe and meaningful to do,” Wnek said. “It's
about giving kids a sense of purpose.”
equine-focused Cloverbuds program helps teach life skills
and nurture positive self-esteem in children.
our meetings out of Fox Run Farm, in Cape May Court House,
where we board horses,” said Wnek. “The kids all help care
for the horses, and in return, learn vital life skills like
compassion, responsibility and the positive results they can
achieve through hard work.”
daughter is part of the Cloverbuds group, and Wnek said she
embraces the opportunity to deter her daughter, along with
the other Cloverbuds, from gender stereotypes.
want my daughter to grow up and know there is more to life
than painted nails and pink tights,” said Wnek. “It makes me
proud to see her get up in the morning, pull on her dirty
boots and show excitement to help out in the barn. All the
kids in Cloverbuds enjoy working with the horses.”
Learning Skills for Life
Many of the life skills Wnek
teaches the Cloverbuds parallel the attributes Coast
“In the Coast Guard, we serve in
the spirit of our core values: honor, respect and devotion
to duty,” said Wnek. “In the Coast Guard, we are all
shipmates who serve together for the greater good. My goal
is to inspire similar values in the children in hope they
will carry them into adulthood.”
The group's spirit
for community service and educational opportunities extends
beyond the horse barn.
The group recently
participated in a community Christmas parade, and is
planning projects leading up to next summer's 4-H fair,
where all the children can show off the results of their
hard work with demonstrations and displays.
encourage the Cloverbuds to work with the older kids who are
in 4-H,” said Wnek. “I believe fostering these relationships
can lead to a lifetime of good leadership and interpersonal
skills for both the older kids and the Cloverbuds.”
Overall, Wnek said her goal for Cloverbuds is to provide
children the opportunity to have a different perspective.
Wnek wants the children to discover that hard work, coupled
with a lot of fun and dedication, can provide amazing
opportunities like the ones Wnek took advantage of when she
took the oath to enlist in the Coast Guard.
Coast Guard Petty Officer 2nd Class Cynthia Oldham
News / Defense Media Activity
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