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Keedysville teen bounces around China

August 30, 2009|By DAVE McMILLION

KEEDYSVILLE -- The evidence of Rocky Rutherford's interest in basketball is obvious as visitors pull up to a hoop in his parents' driveway.

Rocky said he plays basketball a lot, and his skill was demonstrated when he and other youths played against a team last month in China.

The American kids won.

Rocky, a 15-year-old sophomore at Boonsboro High School, was in China as part of the People to People Ambassador Programs.

President Dwight D. Eisenhower, who founded the program in 1956, said it was important for ordinary citizens to interact, believing that could promote cultural understanding and world peace, according to the organization's Web site.

The legacy lives today in People to People Ambassador programs on seven continents, the Web site says.

Rocky was nominated for the program. Among the requirements for participating are references from two teachers, according to his parents, George and Pam Rutherford.

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Rocky said he was not too excited about giving up his summer at home for the trip. But after a basketball win and some interesting train rides across China, things started to change for him.

"It was really good," Rocky said during an interview at his parents' home along Porterstown Road.

The trip from June 25 to July 12 started when Rocky flew from Washington Dulles International Airport to Los Angeles. Then he flew from Los Angeles to Hong Kong, a 14-hour trip.

"It was horrible," he said.

Joined by about 40 students from Frederick County, Md., and Winchester, Va., Rocky made stops in Beijing, Xi'an, Shanghai and Hong Kong. The group visited Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City, the Great Wall, Beijing Zoo and the Terra Cotta Warriors.

The Terra Cotta Warriors are thousands of life-size clay figurines that were buried underground to accompany China's first emperor, Qin Shihuangdi, into the afterlife. Their discovery outside the city of Xi'an is one of the greatest archaeological finds of the 20th century, according to National Geographic.

Rutherford had some interesting tales to relate when he returned home, like eating scorpion on a stick and fungus soup.

"It didn't taste like much," Rocky said of the soup. "It was real slimy."

George Rutherford said part of the focus behind People to People Ambassador programs is to see if students might be interested in politics, which Rocky sees as a possibility in his life.

His parents said it was hard to keep up with Rocky by phone while he was away, and he mostly stayed in touch with them through e-mail, something they had to get used to.

"I think it was worse on her," George Rutherford said, motioning toward his wife.

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