Two Monroe-area cadets are moving up through the ranks at the United States Coast Guard Academy in Connecticut.

Both Monroe High School graduate Savanna Fordham and Snohomish High School graduate Megan Rice aspire to become student engineers once they complete training. Fordham will arrive at her goal this spring, and Rice will follow next year.

“My dad is a commercial mariner, and I grew up on the water and on boats, and was drawn to the military,” Fordham said. “The Coast Guard is definitely more of a humanitarian service, even though they have been in war, but that is not the purpose of them. Between that and seeing them whenever we were out in the water, and keeping my dad safe was kind of big for me.”

On Wednesday, May 17, Fordham will receive her commission as an ensign, a starting officer, and travel to Kodiak, Alaska to serve on the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Douglas Munro. The vessel will be her home for the next two years. After paying off her time at the academy five years from now, she will pursue the industrial side of the Coast Guard’s Prevention Division — the four branches of which are structured to maintain safety on the water.

Both Fordham and Rice say their years at the academy were some of the toughest in their lives. Fordham said freshman year is the hardest. As cadets progress, they earn more privileges. For their first nine months, the underclassmen receive the most discipline, including not being permitted to look down at their food while they eat, she said.

Still, it was where they both knew they wanted to be.

“When I found out I could go to college for free and do what I wanted to do, it was kind of a no-brainer,” Fordham said.

Rice will become a senior, or cadet first class, once Fordham and her peers graduate this month. She won’t find out her assignment until next year, but hopes to serve on an icebreaker in Seattle. She said the five years she owes to pay off her time at the academy doesn’t faze her.

Rice said she plans on making the Coast Guard a career. Eventually, her goal is to design boats, which has been a longtime ambition. She thanks her mother, Melanie, for helping her get where she is now.

“I will be the first officer in my family, that is kind of cool” she said.