Pierce Corson, our 2020 Military Child of the Year for the Coast Guard, is dedicated to spreading mental health awareness for young people. The 17-year-old senior at Ocean Lakes High School in Virginia Beach, Virginia, has conducted research published in a Harvard University-affiliated journal, and also donned a llama mascot costume for a parade while volunteering with a national nonprofit.
That commitment, plus his leadership skills in academia and sports, were the top reasons that Pierce’s school counselor, volleyball coach and principal worked together to nominate him for the award. They are also traits found in the Corson family. He is the son of veteran Coast Guard Capt. Caleb Corson, who retired after 30 years of service, and Dr. Tyler Corson, a gerontologist. Pierce’s brother Roark was the 2018 MCOY recipient.
Pierce became interested in mental health issues due to his own struggles with stress from academic pressures, his father’s deployments, and nine family moves. He also saw stress in his friends at school.
He published a research project about mental health and stress among teens in the Journal of Emerging Investigators. Pierce also worked with the Virginia Department of Education committee to include mental health topics in the state standards of learning curriculum.
He has volunteered for more than three years with the National Alliance on Mental Illness Coastal Virginia affiliate, including serving as a panelist for NAMI’s Say it Out Loud program, which combats mental health stigma for teens.
Pierce loves learning languages. He is nearly fluent in Spanish and studied Mandarin at a local Chinese school where he met with his teacher for weekly tutoring and language exchange to help her learn English.
He was awarded a scholarship from the U.S. State Department and spent the summer studying Mandarin at Wenzao University in Kaohsiung, Taiwan. He said the flexibility he learned as a military child helped him succeed in his experiences abroad.
“I had to juggle attending classes for eight hours daily, multiple hours of homework, maintaining physical fitness for the upcoming volleyball season, and adjusting to a culture and lifestyle that was completely different to what I was used to,” Pierce said. “My saving grace ended up being the adaptability that I had acquired as a result of so many military moves. I was able to quickly find a rhythm in daily life and form strong habits and a social network that took a lot of the pressure off of me and allowed me to flourish for the duration of the scholarship.”
Pierce is a talented athlete who helps develop younger players on his volleyball team. He enjoys weightlifting, Chinese calligraphy, customizing shoes, speed-solving Rubik’s Cubes, and streaming Spanish and Mandarin TV shows. He plans on attending the University of Virginia next year as an Echols Scholar and pursue Chinese and International Relations.
Favorite quote: “Do not go gentle into that good night. Rage, rage against the dying of the light.” -from a poem by Dylan Thomas
- National Alliance on Mental Illness Volunteer
- National Honor Society
- STARTALK Volunteer
- Tidewater Chinese School Volunteer
- Andrew Food Bank Volunteer
- Ocean Lakes HS Biology Club
- Ocean Lakes HS Principal’s Student Advisory Board
- Ocean Lakes HS Math and Science Academy Representative
Join us on our social channels below for more ways for you to join in the celebration. We also encourage you to submit messages of congratulations to our recipients.
Thank you to our gala sponsors, who cannot be with us in person, but whose support has been invaluable: United Technologies Corporation, Booz Allen Hamilton, Carnival Cruise Line, LaQuinta by Wyndham, PNC Bank, Procter and Gamble, and Veterans United Home Loans.
Read previous 2020 recipient profiles: