MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan — No one would blame the Class of 2007 for being cynical.

While the soon-to-be matriculating seniors look toward the future, the war in Iraq drags into its fifth year.

Gas prices are at a record high and college costs continue to soar.

The year’s Oscar-winning documentary was about a climate crisis.

But here’s a little secret:

This year’s Department of Defense Dependents Schools-Pacific seniors are full of hope and optimism for themselves and that for the world.

While they’re concerned about global warming, terrorism and the war, those issues are a backdrop in their busy lives.

Some of them have considered buying a hybrid car or ways to recycle better, but they worry more about paying for college, living on their own and choosing the right career.

And when it comes to picking a job, many are following their heart, with plans to teach, sing, practice medicine, even volunteer a few years for the Peace Corps.

When sharing their future plans, they speak a lot about passion, happiness and desire.

“I am more interested in pursuing my passion,” wrote Yokota High School, Japan, senior Breyana Anderson, in an e-mail. She plans to attend Midwestern State University in Wichita Falls, Texas, next year and eventually become a physical therapist. “Money is important, but it cannot buy happiness,” Anderson said.

Andres Ordorica, 17, a senior at Kadena High School on Okinawa, wants to act, a profession she’s dreamed of since she was 5 and saw a London stage production of “The Secret Garden.”

“I know the career path I have chosen doesn’t guarantee success,” she said, “and that’s all right. I wouldn’t be happy working at a desk 9 to 5 … .”

Annita Carrell, a career practicum teacher at Nile C. Kinnick High School at Yokosuka Naval Base, Japan, has noticed several trends with her students. More students than usual, she said, seem intent on teaching careers, and as a whole, they’re more goal oriented.

“Most of the kids that I have pretty much have an idea of what they want to do and what they want to get into,” she said.

Carrell can’t put her finger on why the education field appears more attractive to seniors. “It just kind of goes in a cycle,” she said.

Victoria Benson, 18, a senior at Robert D. Edgren High School at Misawa Air Base, Japan, plans to study classical music in college and then become a high school chorus teacher.

“I decided music would be something I would never get tired of,” she said.

Kellsey Christoferson’s passion is science. The 18-year-old senior at Osan American High School in South Korea wants to be a marine biologist. “I just want to explore things and learn things and maybe become a great scientist or something,” she said. “So yeah, it’s part of gaining financial status, but along with that you gotta have desire.”

Thomas Harwell, 17, also loves science. The senior class president of Edgren High School sees himself as a biology teacher someday.

“I think the passion I have for science, if I can give that to other people for them to use in any aspect of life,” he said.

Harwell said he’s “very optimistic” about the future, adding “I don’t worry a lot about things on a global scale.”

But if any world event shook this year’s seniors, it was the mass killings last month at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in Blacksburg, Va.

“I think we’re all kind of nervous about college, especially (after) what happened at Virginia Tech,” said Chris Carlon, 17, a senior at Ernest J. King High School on Sasebo Naval Base, Japan. “It (was) somebody’s roommate. It could happen to anybody. We’re the first class going into that.”

But Carlon is forging ahead. He plans to study journalism at Ithaca College in New York with dreams of working on a magazine or being an international correspondent.

Some students like Benson and Edgren senior Lindsey Cannon, 18 — who wants to be a nurse — envision volunteering a few years for the Peace Corps before settling in a job.

Concerned about global warming, Benson also wants to give back to the environment and intends to “get one of those peanut-oil hybrid cars in the States.”

Among the budding scientists, educators and environmentalists in this year’s senior crop is a fair share interested in engineering and technology, according to Robert Victoria, an Edgren high school guidance counselor.

“We still have about 75 percent of students that will go off to secondary schooling, whether it be a four- or two-year college, and the rest will go into the job market or the military,” he said.

A guaranteed job and money for education motivated Edgren’s Ashley Lee to enlist in the Air Force under medical services. She leaves July 17 for basic training.

“I always wanted to pursue a medical career but my family didn’t really have the money to send me to college,” she said. The prospect of going to war is somewhat scary, she said, “but I support what we’re doing over there so I’m OK with going.”

Some seniors, though focused now, will likely switch gears — several times, Carrell said. “They come back at Christmas, they’ve changed their mind,” she said.

And some are still deciding, like Edgren senior Nathan Fine.

Fine, 18, plans to attend Texas Southern Methodist University in Dallas next year but he’s unsure of a major or a career. He said he feels pressure to figure it out, soon.

“I have two older brothers in the process of still finding a career and they’re older than me,” he said.

Stars and Stripes reporters Vince Little, Cindy Fisher and Franklin Fisher contributed to this story.

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Jennifer reports on the U.S. military from Kaiserslautern, Germany, where she writes about the Air Force, Army and DODEA schools. She’s had previous assignments for Stars and Stripes in Japan, reporting from Yokota and Misawa air bases. Before Stripes, she worked for daily newspapers in Wyoming and Colorado. She’s a graduate of the College of William and Mary in Virginia.

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