CAMP SCHWAB, OKINAWA, Japan --
An awards ceremony for the weekly adult English program offered on Marine Corps installations was held March 29 aboard Camp Schwab.
Twenty-four local students received certificates of completion, and 14 volunteers were awarded letters of appreciation. Both the students and volunteers were awarded for their involvement in the class for the last year.
The course falls in line with the Japanese fiscal year, beginning in April and ending in March. The class was held every Wednesday night between 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. Fumio Iha, the community relations representative for Camp Schwab, has been running the program since it began in 2002.
“I’m so proud to be part of this program,” said Col. Kevin A. Norton, Camp Schwab camp commander. “This program began in 2002 and I get to stand here today as the colonel that’s carrying on this tradition. But the real important part of the program isn’t me, it’s the local students, Fumio-san and the volunteers.”
According to Iha, the class has students of many ages who travel from Naha, Nago, Urasoe and many other locations across Okinawa to attend. There is a beginner’s class for students who are new, and an intermediate class for students who have attended for several years.
After being awarded, a couple of the students and volunteers stood in front of the class and expressed how the class impacted them, and how grateful the are to be a part of this program.
“There is no funding for this program,” said Michelle Camina, a volunteer teacher in the English program. “The Marines and sailors still come, even during the holidays. The men and women who show up and volunteer their time are exemplary people. They are some of the best people I know.”
The Okinawa residents who attend this class are inspired by the Marines, sailors and volunteers to continue to come and learn English.
“I have taken this class for two years, and received this award twice,” said Hina Inoie, a local student. “It’s nice to be presented this award by a high ranking Marine, it encourages me to continue to learn English. I look forward to come back and make new friends with Marines and other students.”
The class laughed together, encouraged one another and used the ceremony as a learning opportunity by volunteering to get in front of the class and express themselves in English with the help of the instructor and fellow students.
“I want to thank you for your efforts, because your efforts make our community into a family,” said Norton. “When we share our language and our culture, we understand one another. I think that makes the world better. I want to thank all of you; Marines, sailors and volunteers that make this program happen, also our friends here in Okinawa, particularly all of the folks that put in the hard work here.”