KINGS POINT, N.Y., Sept. 7, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- The U.S. Merchant Marine Academy (USMMA) today welcomed 237 "plebe candidates" of the Class of 2017 into the Regiment of Midshipmen as they took the Academy oath administrated by Rear Admiral James A. Helis, Ph.D., superintendent of USMMA, during the Acceptance Day Ceremony and Parade. They were then sworn in as U.S. Navy Reserve midshipmen by Vice Admiral Robin R. Bruan, Chief of Navy Reserve, commander, Navy Reserve Force. (Photo: http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnh/20130907/NY75836) "As future leaders in the Regiment of Midshipmen the opportunity to excel in academics, athletics and leadership will mark your next four years," said Helis. "For the academy, you'll represent our greatest achievement when you graduate as the next generation of American leaders to serve the nation's marine transportation and defense needs for decades to come." Acceptance Day marks the transition of the "plebe candidates" to "plebes." The Class of 2017 officially arrived on July 2, 2013. The congressionally-nominated plebe candidates began a rigorous, 18-day regimen of academic, military, and physical training known as Indoctrination -- their first step toward becoming future leaders and licensed maritime officers. VADM Braun encouraged the midshipmen to embrace every opportunity to gain knowledge and experience stating, " U.S. Merchant Marine Academy graduates have distinguished themselves during times of peace and war. Whether though military service or industry, Kings Point graduates continue to make a lasting difference to our nation." The Class of 2017 makes up one of the most diverse classes in Academy history with over a 22% minority representation. The 199 young men and 38 young women were selected from 2,252 applicants nationwide. The average SAT scores for the Class of 2017 are 643 for critical reading and 643 for math. The 237 plebes represent 46 states. The Academy is the only federal service academy where three graduation credentials are earned – a Bachelor of Science Degree, a U.S. Coast Guard license as a deck or engineering officer, and an officer's commission in any of the armed services ensuring a steady stream of leaders and merchant marine officers to support the nation's economic and security interests.