Fall 2017 Corps Review    |    Back

The Olmsted Foundation Undergraduate Scholars volunteered at the Sisters of Mercy in Colon, Panama, a charity supporting distressed women. Pictured are, standing, from left, Sister Barbara Ozelski, William Glynn ‘19, Anthony Williams, Thomas Earl ‘19, Quinton Armacost ‘18, Preston Jones ‘18, Sister Dina Altamiranda, and, kneeling from left, Kathryn Dyer, ‘19 Sydney Thorpe ‘19, and Autumn Moore.

The Olmsted Foundation Undergraduate Scholars volunteered at the Sisters of Mercy in Colon, Panama, a charity supporting distressed women. Pictured are, standing, from left,  Sister Barbara Ozelski, William Glynn ‘19, Anthony Williams, Thomas Earl ‘19, Quinton Armacost ‘18, Preston Jones ‘18, Sister Dina Altamiranda, and, kneeling from left, Kathryn Dyer, ‘19 Sydney Thorpe ‘19, and Autumn Moore.
The Olmsted Foundation Undergraduate Scholars volunteered at the Sisters of Mercy in Colon, Panama, a charity supporting distressed women. Pictured are, standing, from left, Sister Barbara Ozelski, William Glynn ‘19, Anthony Williams, Thomas Earl ‘19, Quinton Armacost ‘18, Preston Jones ‘18, Sister Dina Altamiranda, and, kneeling from left, Kathryn Dyer, ‘19 Sydney Thorpe ‘19, and Autumn Moore.

In May, the Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets and Olmsted Foundation Undergraduate Scholars again traveled to Panama to experience the country’s culture, history, and people.

Since 2005, the Corps of Cadets has received more than $175,000 in grants from the George and Carol Olmsted Foundation that has given 57 cadets the opportunity to travel. 

This year, participating cadets were Quinton Armacost ’18, Kathryn Dyer ’19, Thomas Earl ’19, William Glynn ’19, Preston Jones ’18, and Sydney Thorpe ’19.  

Cadets traveled around the country to see cities, the Panama Canal, a tropical jungle area and native community, and the San Blas Island natural habitat area. They completed service projects and attended American Memorial Day ceremonies at the U.S. National Cemetery at Corozal, where the U.S. ambassador to Panama, John D. Feeley, spoke.

The experience was Armacost’s first trip outside the United States and gave him a new sense of confidence in his ability to adapt to a new culture, even when he didn’t speak the native language.

“After a few days, I started to pick up the necessary Spanish terms to get around. I grew an appreciation of the uncertainty and a level of uncomfortableness that I now realize could be a real challenge that I may face as a future officer,” he said. “Though I never really learned enough Spanish to get around successfully, I grew more comfortable with the human interaction and adaptation to a new place.”

The George and Carol Olmsted Foundation, based in Falls Church, Virginia, has long supported educational programs that give active-duty military officers, along with cadets and midshipmen at the U.S. senior military colleges, such as Virginia Tech, a better understanding of foreign cultures. 

The group explores Panama City.

Buildings in Panama City.
The group explores Panama City.

In fall 2004, the Olmsted Foundation board of directors established the Olmsted Cadet Travel and Cultural Immersion Program to enable “academically and socially qualified commission-tracked ROTC cadets” at the senior military colleges to travel to non-English-speaking nations. The program helps prepare future military officers for international assignments and strengthens our nation’s ability to function efficiently and effectively in and with foreign countries.

The foundation provided the Corps an initial $10,000 grant in 2005, and three rising seniors traveled to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, for two weeks that summer. Since then, recognizing the Corps’ efforts to optimize cadet participation by its aggressive liaison with U.S. embassies, the foundation has awarded grants ranging from $10,000 to $20,000 to support cadet travel to Santiago, Chile; Buenos Aires, Argentina; and Panama City, Panama. 

In 2013, the foundation expanded its undergraduate scholar program to include two historically black colleges — Hampton University and Norfolk State University — and sought the Corps’ assistance to launch their first cultural immersion trips. Two Army ROTC cadets from both institutions joined the Virginia Tech contingent for the 2013 and 2014 travel to Panama. Since 2015, two Army ROTC cadets from Norfolk State University have accompanied the Virginia Tech group.  

Cadets say they are grateful for the experience, and many return home with a new sense of purpose.

Thorpe said the trip to Panama has inspired her to keep learning about different places and different cultures. “It brings me to the conclusion that I would like to do my part in this world so I may better the lifestyle of those who do not have the luxury of knowing what it means to have opportunity. It is not a matter of changing the world. It is about learning more about the world you live in so that you may change your small part of the world in hopes of a chain reaction.” 

The Olmsted Foundation Undergraduate Scholars pose for a picture with their hosts during a visit to a Panamanian native community.

The Olmsted Foundation Undergraduate Scholars pose for a picture with their hosts during a visit to a Panamanian native community.
The Olmsted Foundation Undergraduate Scholars pose for a picture with their hosts during a visit to a Panamanian native community.