Chief Alicia Price, Air Force JROTC instructor at Cherokee High School, said she took her first group of students to the international conference in November a year ago and looks forward to having more cadets attend in the future.
“I didn’t really know what to expect when I went last year,” Price said. “After coming back last year and seeing what a great opportunity it was for them, we wanted to do it again.”
Price said cadets who complete a summer leadership program at the Citadel are eligible to go to the conference. This year, she took five of her students from Cherokee and one Sequoyah cadet and met up with three cadets and another chaperone from North Carolina to represent the United States at the November conference lasting 17 days.
Students participating in the Cherokee JROTC program were already familiar with Singapore students, as they participate as host families in a summer exchange program that welcomed 24 students from Singapore and were able to meet with their friends again at the conference.
“I already volunteered and told them we would sponsor them when they come here next summer,” Price said.
Among other conference activities, Price said the students were able to visit the Republic of Singapore Air Force Museum and go scuba diving.
Junior Sam Smith, who qualified as the group’s Best International Cadet, said he wanted to go on the trip because his friend went last year.
“It sounded like a ton of fun when he told us about it,” Smith said. “I met some of the Singapore kids last summer at that pretty much clenched the deal.”
Smith said he enjoyed meeting people from all different countries, especially because he hopes to have a career as a diplomat.
Sophomore Shaun Rossrucker said this was the first time he had traveled overseas.
“Being able to see all these people from different countries helped me see if traveling was what I wanted to do in life,” he said. “It’s a small country, but so much is in there.”
Sophomore Daniel Ray said he also liked learning more about the Singaporean culture, including the types of food they typically eat.
“My favorite thing I ate was sting ray,” he said. “They put a bunch of hot sauce on it.”
He also learned about tokra, a game with a plastic ball that is similar to hacky sack.
“You play with a team and pitch it to each other to try to make goals,” Ray said.
Sophomore Kyle Kirsch said they played tokra a few times in some unexpected places.
“(Playing on) the train was really fun because you could look over everybody’s head from the front to the back of the train,” Kirsch said, noting Singaporean people tend to be much shorter.
The main take-away for sophomore Stephen Kraft was the ability to better understand people from other countries.
“In America, we have our laws, but you have to respect the religions and laws of people from other countries —what they believe and what they do on a daily basis that we might not do,” he said.
Each of the young men said they plan to go into the military and would recommend the trip to their JROTC peers.
Price said she hopes district officials continue to approve the trip so more of her students can experience life abroad.
“It’s just good for them to see the differences,” Price said. “Even for ones not going in the military, this is a good experience.”