By School Liaison Office; Child, Youth and School Services; Directorate of Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation; U.S. Army Garrison-HawaiiOctober 21, 2014
WHEELER ARMY AIRFIELD, Hawaii -- Goodwill, international friendships, ohana -- these words were consistently used during a recent visit to Wheeler Middle School by Saiga Masamitsu, mayor, Kawachi, Japan; Ono Shigeru, education director, Kawachi; and Masako Nashimoto Luttrell, president, Nashimoto & Associates.
Masamitsu, Shigeru, Luttrell, joined by four Japanese council members from Kawachi, met with Wheeler Middle School administrators to discuss a planned visit of Japanese students to the school next year.
The anticipated visit will be a first for Kawachi Junior High School and Kanaetsu Junior High School students, who will be attending classes with the Wheeler Middle School students for two days.
"This experience will provide an opportunity for all students to interact with each other and talk about different cultures," Luttrell said as she spoke with the school administrators. "It will also provide our students with first-hand experience in learning the spoken English language."
School administrators and Erin Mendleson, special education department chairwoman, Wheeler Middle School, are planning on initiating a pen-pal program soon to prepare the students for their the planned visit to the school.
Mendelson said that this experience will be beneficial for the Wheeler students as well.
"Our eighth graders will gain the opportunity to become part of a global community," said Mendelson. "Through this cultural exchange, students will engage and make new friends with peers from across the world."
The Japanese students who will be selected to participate in this program will attend a school in a district that offers English-language instruction as a top priority.
"Many Japanese can read and write English because it is taught in school," Luttrell said. "However, the majority of those cannot speak English because Japanese teachers are not fluent in the English language."
"I would like my people to speak English at a much earlier stage so that they can speak with the American business people that are in Japan and around the world," Masamitsu emphasized.
The dignitaries also visited the art and music classrooms at Wheeler Middle School and Masamitsu came away from the experience very impressed with the students.
"If you interact with students from Japan and all over the world, then it may broaden your horizon and you will become friends and everyone around the world will be family," he expressed through his interpreter.
He thanked the students for their performance.
"Your music is happy and that makes me happy. It's beautiful to see your beautiful shining eyes and faces -- just like the students in Kawachi."
Although the coordinators are planning for next school year, the hope is that this program will continue for years to come.