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Teenage Cadets Impress At Special Olympics World Games
by Brandon Honig, California National Guard - September 21, 2015

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LOS ANGELES - This summer, Jovanny Perez and three other teenagers set out into the wilderness on a Tuesday with limited supplies — supplies they knew would not last until Saturday. If they didn't use their newly-acquired skills to purify water, build shelter, make fire and find food, the next five days were going to be miserable.

The group had paid attention during their survival training, though, and the teens enjoyed a smooth, fun week, as they told their mentor from the California Cadet Corps, who visited them once a day to ensure they were safe.

More than 200 California Cadet Corps members devoted part of their summer to supporting the Special Olympics World Games in the Los Angeles area, including moving athletes into their dorms at UCLA on July 24, 2015. (Photo by Brandon Honig, California National Guard)
More than 200 California Cadet Corps members devoted part of their summer to supporting the Special Olympics World Games in the Los Angeles area, including moving athletes into their dorms at UCLA on July 24, 2015. (Photo by Brandon Honig, California National Guard)

“I'd tell students to join [the Cadet Corps] first chance you get,” said Perez, 15, who attends North Valley Military Academy in Granada Hills. “The earlier the better, so you get a chance to do all the cool things you can do in the Cadet Corps, like the survival training and some other things I won't have a chance to do.”

Perez aspires to graduate from West Point one day, and the Cadet Corps is a first step on that road. Run by the California Military Department at high schools across the state, the Cadet Corps is an educational and leadership-development program that prepares students for college and the workforce. Cadets meet daily to develop their skills, and they have educational experiences and adventures like Perez's trip into the wilderness about every two months.

“What it brings us is responsibility and many other good things like having our military courtesy and being respectful to our elders or even people younger than us, even when we're not in uniform,” said Luis Angel Miranda Magana, 14, of North Valley. “If you see an elderly woman struggling with her groceries, go ahead and help. It's like passing it forward: You get help from one person, and you help out another, kind of like a chain.”

Magana and his fellow cadets from North Valley had the opportunity to pass it forward for almost two weeks this summer, volunteering their time to support the Special Olympics World Games. They greeted athletes and delegates at the airport, tagged and carried their luggage, and moved them into their dorms at UCLA. Then they provided on-site support for the athletic events at UCLA, delivering ice and cold beverages, and tackling any other tasks they could find to help out the athletes and the World Games.

Sgt. Alfredo Ubau, of the California National Guard's 2668th Transportation Company, who was also stationed at UCLA during the World Games, said the cadre at the Cadet Corps keep the students tight. He also said the cadets are great kids who did an awesome job at UCLA. He even nominated two cadets for a Certificate of Appreciation from the Military Department.

“They really impressed me,” said Ubau, who was part of a 500-person California Military Department task force that supported the World Games. “I didn't have to tell them anything, and they just did their job as good as any motivated soldier, any adult – if not better.”

Jeff Carr, chief operating officer of the World Games Organizing Committee, said he was very impressed by the cadets' maturity and work ethic.

“Those kids were fantastic,” he said. “They did an excellent job, and we couldn't have done it without them.”

More than 200 cadets from several schools put in long hours during the World Games, running errands in the hot Los Angeles sun day after day while athletes played soccer, softball and other fun sports all around them. And the cadets seemed all too happy to serve.

“I really like doing things for other people like we get to do in the Cadet Corps,” said Yahyra Santizo, 14, of North Valley. “I love their reactions.”

Perez said the cadets' days at UCLA were tiring, but it felt good to contribute, and it was fun to interact with the athletes.

“The one thing that caught me the most is how many of these countries don't really get along, but once every couple of years, they can come together for a week or more and play together,” he said. “It's very heartwarming to see all the athletes get along, take pictures, and just talk to them. All of them are really nice.”

By Brandon Honig, California National Guard
Provided through DVIDS
Copyright 2015

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