An unconventional summer camp

Catherine Zhang, Editor-in-Chief

Over the summer, many students at Diamond Bar High School scramble to find highly accredited academic programs and classes. But instead of taking your run of the mill rigorous academic classes, three seniors, Winnie Houng, Christian Park and Cameron Belden, immersed themselves in a camp of vigorous academic and physical workouts, while getting a glimpse of cadet life—in the Air Force and at West Point military camps.

Houng first found out about the U.S. Air Force’s Summer Seminar through her older brother, who had attended the West Point seminar last year.

After completing the application, Houng decided to attend the program to experience cadet life for a week in late June.

Every morning, Houng awoke to her element leader banging and kicking on her cadet dorm door, then did planks outside of her room until the last person came out of their dorm.

Before breakfast, Houng and the other cadets were required to exercise, sprinting a few miles and doing sit ups and pushups.

“We would sprint for a few miles because no one wanted to be the last one to finish. Sometimes after we finished our run, after we have poured our last bit of energy into sprinting the last mile, our element leaders would tell us to go another mile. That extra mile really made me realize that what is seemingly the end of physical strength is actually just the beginning of an effective workout,” Houng said via Facebook.

Similar to Houng, Park and Belden both decided to attend the West Point Summer Leaders Experience, a program that accepts only 1,000 applicants out of 6,000, as a way to experience cadet life.  

Aside from the physical workouts, Houng, Belden and Park also attended classes about various subjects, such as astronomy and aerodynamics, and learned about the process of applying to the academy the following school year.

During her time at the academy, Houng and the other Air Force cadets attended a Mil-X day, in which the cadets spent a whole day exercising, aside from meals.

“The greatest difficulty for me was the physical exertion. Also, as a girl, there are a lot of inconveniences,” Houng said.

Although the thought of cadets may evoke a certain stereotype, Houng feels as if the military tries to dispel the “mold” of the cadets, promoting diversity and minority groups.

“Truthfully, stereotypes are more common at home than at the academy. In the recent years, the military academies have been working at promoting minority groups in the military.  There were a lot of tough, muscular men, but academics are just as important as physique, as other members in my element are all top of their classes,” Houng said.

Although Houng has no plans of attending the Air Force in the near future, she is still considering the option for the future.

“I was attracted to the idea of service originally, also the people there are seriously talented. At DB, you think everyone in the world is about the same [studious, working hard for app cushions] but the people at the program are what you can seriously call bright and well rounded,” Houng said.

Like Houng, Park and Belden are not considering a career or education at West Point.

“I chose not to apply because I realized that the academy is not for me,” Park said. “Some people have different routes in their lives, and other people are well-fitted to go there, and I respect that.  It’s not a regular college campus; you don’t have the same freedom as other college students. You have strict rules, and you can’t break them.”