By Noriko Kudo, U.S. Army Garrison Japan Public AffairsMarch 5, 2019
CAMP ZAMA, Japan (March. 5, 2019) - The energy and enthusiasm of the stage full of young performers seemed to sweep the audience off their feet as soon as the lights came up and the music began playing.
The ninth annual Young Americans three-day workshop, hosted by SKIES Unlimited, was held Feb. 25 through 27 for participating Camp Zama youth in grades second through 12th.
The workshop culminated Feb. 28 with a two hour-long song- and dance-filled show in which the students performed alongside the Young Americans, showcasing their efforts to a crowd of family members, friends and community members at Arnn Elementary School on Sagamihara Family Housing Area.
Enrique Silva, a seventh-grader at ZAMHS, said this was his first time participating in the workshop and called it a life-changing experience.
"I learned how to be confident onstage ... and in front of a whole bunch of people," said Enrique.
Enrique said his mother initially pushed him to participate. It was at times very stressful to be onstage, he said, but he felt very excited and happy after the show was finished.
"I thought I did pretty good throughout the entire show," said Enrique.
Grace Bryant, a 10th grader at ZAMHS, is a seasoned veteran with Young Americans. This was her sixth time participating in the workshop, she said. Getting involved was a great way to spend time with the classmates she goes to school with but never has a chance to talk to, she said.
"We get to connect with everyone," said Grace. "Every year after the Young Americans workshop, I just feel so amazing. It's a great feeling."
Young Americans is a performing arts organization that tours all over the world doing performances and workshops with students. The purpose is to teach the young participants about self-confidence, being brave and "showing the world who they are utilizing the power of music," said Nathan Schneider, guest director for Young Americans.
Schneider said working together to learn the music and dance steps did something to transform the students over the course of the three days they spent together.
"They really didn't hold anything back," said Schneider. "We could not be more proud of the students. I hope they learned to believe in themselves."
Nicholas Andrews, the outreach services director for Camp Zama's Child and Youth Services, who helped organized the workshop and the show, took a moment at the end of the show to recognize three Young Americans coaches-Sabrina Hunter, Andrea Silvia and Erika Graham-who were former participants when they attended ZAMHS.
Hunter said she remembered some of the students from when she previously took gymnastics and ballet class with them, which made this particular workshop literally both a homecoming and a reunion for her.
"It's definitely surreal," said Hunter. "It's just amazing to be able to talk to these kids and to know that there is something within me that I can give to them at the end of the day."
Looking back on her experience as a Young Americans participant, Hunter said she didn't realize how much it helped her throughout her school life. And now as a coach, she said she hopes to encourage this newest crop of young performers to "not be afraid to dream big."