POMONA — Some students enjoy not having anything to do in the summer, while others — like Lane Curtis — are busy seeing the world.
Curtis, an incoming senior at West Franklin High School recently returned from a 13-day trip of Europe for the Global Young Leaders Conference, he said.
A lot led up to his trip to Europe, he said, starting small by attending a state leadership conference.
“Jeff Smith, the middle school history teacher nominated me to go to a leadership conference in Wichita because I was a well-respected kid and good student,” Curtis said. “Because I went to Wichita, I got nominated to go to Washington, D.C., for the national [conference], which I didn’t end up going because I’d been to D.C. before with my family. But because of that I qualified for the global [leadership conference].”
The difficult part came when Curtis had to choose between three locations for the global conference, he said. One choice was the United States, which included Washington, D.C., and New York. The second choice was China, which included Beijing, Hangzhou, Zhejiang and Shanghai, China. The third choice was Europe, which included Vienna, Austria, Prague, Czech Republic, and Berlin, Germany. Curtis chose Europe because he said it was a place he’d always wanted to visit.
“We had so many people from so many different countries,” he said. “It was interesting learning what their countries were like compared to ours.”
Students between the ages of 15 and 18 had been nominated to go to the global conference, he said. The students took tours of cities and attended meetings afterward, Curtis said.
“They would brief us on going out before we’d take tours,” he said. “Then we’d compare the way it was over there to other people’s countries and even in our free time [students would] just sit down and talk.”
Curtis said the gatherings were confidence boosters when it came to talking to new people and speaking to large audiences.
“A lot of our meetings we had were about learning how to give presentations to large numbers of people especially from different countries,” he said. “A lot of keynote speakers were people from parliament in that area. They came in and then they had us stand up and ask questions and give speeches to the speakers. It was a confidence builder, speaking to people you don’t even know or relate to.”
While visiting the different countries, Curtis had the opportunity to visit many museums, parliaments and cathedrals, he said. When Curtis signed up to go to Europe, he also signed up for a cultural add-on to go to Munich, Germany, Salzburg, Austria, and Bavaria, Germany, he said.
“My favorite experience was when we went into Salzburg,” he said. “It’s kind of like Ottawa in the sense it’s big, but it isn’t a city, it’s more of a town, and you walk into the city and the city is built into the side of this hill, and on top of the hill is a huge castle. It was cool because you could go to the outskirts of the city and a lot of buildings are relatively new, but there’s a lot of old building that have been refurnished with coffee shops. And in the inner city, the further you go, the more the buildings are being put into the side of the hill.”
Spending 13 days with other students from around the world, Curtis said, he soon found himself making very close friends.
“[The conference] helped my confidence in speaking and I made a lot of friends over there,” he said. “I’ve kept in touch with them over the phone and on Facebook. We’ve talked about getting back together in about five years and doing something.”
When he was nominated and eligible to go to the global conference, Curtis said he knew it was an opportunity not many of his peers had ever been given and one he couldn’t pass up.
“Going over [to Europe] is a once-in-a-lifetime kind of thing,” he said. “A lot of people in our area don’t get the chance to do something like that and going over there and sharing my experience back home might influence more kids to do that.”
Despite some schoolwork-like responsibilities, Curtis said he thought of his trip as a getaway.
“I’ve always wanted to go [to Europe] anyway, especially to Berlin, because it has such a history to it because of the war,” he said. “Going there was amazing. With me working as much as I do now, I thought it was a vacation.”