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National security and Air Force career come calling for Federal Way cadet

Nicholas Rollolazo, a 16-year-old Federal Way High School junior, will attend the annual National Youth Leadership Forum in Washington, D.C.  - Courtesy photo
Nicholas Rollolazo, a 16-year-old Federal Way High School junior, will attend the annual National Youth Leadership Forum in Washington, D.C.
— image credit: Courtesy photo

Federal Way schools might have a future military or political leader in its midst.

Nicholas Rollolazo, a 16-year-old Federal Way High School junior, will attend the annual National Youth Leadership Forum in Washington, D.C., next month after being selected by an instructor that oversees his Air Force Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps (JROTC) unit.

The forum focuses on national defense. Rollolazo hopes to make connections with people who could help him get into his dream school: the Air Force Academy.

“I was excited because the year before, two of the students in the JROTC went and said it was a whole bunch of fun,” Rollolazo said of finding out that he had been chosen.

The forum runs from Feb. 22 to Feb. 27. During the forum, Rollolazo will get a preview of what a career in national security might look like. Military, diplomatic and intelligence professionals will explain national security issues and career paths to attendees over six days. High school students will engage in question and answer sessions.

Rollolazo said he’s interested in a career in national security and likes the political aspect of it best. He’s set on joining the Air Force, where he wants to pursue study in electrical, civil or aerospace engineering. He’s ranked as a captain in JROTC, and is in his third year in the program.

“For me, going to this would help” me get access to the Air Force Academy, he said. “This will help me to be able to meet with those people” involved with the academy.

Rollolazo was selected to attend the forum by Lt. Col. Randy Long, an Air Force JROTC instructor and a teacher of aerospace science.

Rollolazo is a student in Federal Way’s Cambridge program and is also head of an Air Force JROTC cadet Academic Bowl team (Rollolazo could end up back in Washington this summer at an academic bowl championship if his team does well enough). He also partakes in the Washington Aerospace Scholars Program.

The National Youth Leadership Forum on National Defense began in 1992. According to its website, the forum “has enabled America’s brightest students to explore and directly participate in these career fields as well as take part in personally escorted visits to some of the most sensitive national security and diplomatic sites and facilities in the nation’s Capital.”

The program only accepts top-tier students. Students are eligible to attend only if they have a B+ average or better; are in the tenth-, eleventh- or twelfth-grades; and have shown an interest in national security issues.

Past speakers at the conference include former Central Intelligence Agency Director George Tenet, former Nebraska Sen. Chuck Hagel and former Deputy State Department Director Richard Armitage.

What Rollolazo is looking forward to hearing about most is a subject that would make most people cringe.

“I want to hear about experiences in handling national security crisis situations,” he said.

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