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KADENA AIR BASE, Okinawa — Two Pacific Department of Defense Dependents Schools students recently returned from a weeklong trip to the States, where they were immersed in the happenings of the U.S. government.

Anthony Soroka from Kadena High School and Elizabeth Michael from Yokota High School in western Tokyo, both seniors, traveled to the nation’s capital March 4-11 for the United States Senate Youth Program.

The program hosts two student delegates, picked through a rigorous selection process, from each state, the District of Columbia and DODDS. The program allows students to see the U.S. government in action, and each participant receives a $5,000 college scholarship for undergraduate studies, according to DODDS officials.

Both Soroka and Michael said they were excited about their trip, as neither of them had visited Washington before. Part of the week was spent touring the capital, while a good portion was dedicated to hearing speeches, watching the government work and meeting government officials.

The highlight of the trip for Soroka was meeting President Bush after a group photo with the program’s participants. The president had spoken about service, Soroka said, so he told him about his family’s experience in that area.

“I talked about my dad’s service as a Navy doctor and my mom’s service as a DODDS teacher,” Soroka said.

Soroka said students also were able to meet senators, including Bill Frist, John McCain and Hillary Clinton. The students also heard from members of the departments of State, Defense and Justice, as well as think-tank employees and the ambassador from Pakistan.

“I really didn’t expect to meet politicians … maybe just a few, but we met a lot,” Soroka said.

One of the highlights for Michael was hearing a speech from Army Lt. Gen. C.V. “Chris” Christianson, the Joint Staff’s logistics director, she said. Michael said Christianson’s speech — about service to country and “how the military is benefiting society” — hit close to home.

Soroka said his and Michael’s experience of being in military families and living overseas was always a good conversation piece with fellow students.

“They just didn’t understand at all,” he said. “I just told them it’s a bubble of America in Japan, with only minor changes.”

Overall, both students said it was an insightful trip that taught them a lot about the U.S. government.

“It was absolutely amazing … the whole week was overwhelming,” Michael said. “Talking with these people and the overall experience itself was great. I would recommend this to anyone … just being in D.C. is an education in itself.”

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