By Noriko Kudo, U.S. Army Garrison Japan Public AffairsMarch 9, 2018
Camp Zama, Japan (March. 9, 2018) -- Camp Zama youth members received a standing ovation from their family members, friends and community members after The Young Americans annual performance night held March 1 at Arnn Elementary School's cafeteria on Sagamihara Family Housing Area.
TYA, a nonprofit organization founded in 1962, is dedicated to promoting understanding and goodwill among people around the world through music, dance and performance, according to its website youngamericans.org.
TYA held a three-day music workshop, hosted by SKIES Unlimited, for youth members in grades third through 12th prior to the performance night. These participants learned skills and techniques in singing, dancing and acting, rehearsing the entire show throughout the workshop.
On the day of the show, the youth had an opportunity to show off their newly learned skills with several musical performances and skits.
Jeffrey Polk, guest director for TYA, who has been directing the show for about five years, said TYA workshop aims to help kids get out of their shell and comfort zone through music and dance.
Polk said he told the participants during the workshop it is ok to be shy because it is part of them.
"There is no right or wrong," said Polk, "there is only right."
Polk said he wants the youth to know, "anything is possible."
Liam Butac, sixth-grader at Arnn, who participated in the workshop last year, said he wanted to try it again this year.
"It was a good way to sing, dance and express the way I feel to the audience," said Liam.
Liam said he was a little nervous before his solo part but one of TYA members kept encouraging him and told him he can do it.
"I think I got a little more confidence at singing, dancing, performing, acting and all that stuff," said Liam.
Liam said the music workshop was about having fun.
Chikako Hayashi, company manager said, her team members try to encourage youth members as much as they can to help them step out their comfort zone.
"They have potentials…we just need to push them a little bit," said Hayashi.
Jinara Otero-Rodriguez, 12th grader at Zama American Middle-High School, said she loves the workshop so much that she has participated six times.
"It's just a big part of who I am today," she said.
Jinara said she remembers being very shy and not being comfortable singing in front of a lot of people at the very first workshop but after six years later she was very confident and was excited to do even a solo in front of a large audience.
"I really loved the way it went," said Jinara.
Jinara said through TYA workshops she learned it is ok to be different and it is ok to be herself.
Jinara said they helped each other through everything whether it was for dancing, solos or having a rough day, and they had fun together during the workshop.
"We become one big family," said Jinara.
Jinara said this coming July she will be going to The Young Americans College of the Performing Arts.
Jinara said this has been her dream since the very first time she tried the workshop, and she was very excited to see everything finally come together.
"I think I saw the impact that TYA had on me throughout the workshops and I wanted to be able to give back and inspire children the way TYA inspired me," said Jinara.