CAMP ZAMA, Japan (July 24, 2019) -- School may be out for the summer, but a group of young men and women here are spending this time serving their community, gaining professional development, and earning a paycheck.

Sixteen high school- and college-age students are taking part in the summer hire program, working for different organizations throughout Camp Zama to gain work experience and contribute to those organizations' respective missions.

Since most of the students on Camp Zama are dependents who fall under the Status of Forces Agreement, or SOFA, they cannot work outside the installation, said Jennifer Ledbetter, a human resources specialist at the Camp Zama Civilian Personnel Advisory Center.

The employees were chosen by lottery from a pool of about 50 applicants.

"Organizations such as [Dental Activity, Medical Activity, U.S. Army Japan] and the [U.S. Army Garrison Japan] components provide working positions for the students in order to get work experience," said Ledbetter.

This year, U.S. Army Dental Activity -- Japan is taking part in the summer hire program for the first time. Supervisor Staff Sgt. Nathaniel Warner said his organization decided to participate this year "to help out with the community" and to follow the example of other organizations on Camp Zama.

DENTAC's first summer hire is Irulan Hirata, 14, a rising sophomore at Zama American Middle High School. Her responsibilities include wrapping boxes of supplies to send to DENTAC at Torii Station, Okinawa; sanitizing mouthpieces, organizing files at the front desk, and unpacking medical supplies. Irulan also observes cleanings and various kinds of dental work, such as the installation of braces.

"What I find interesting is actually watching the dentists do their work," said Irulan. "I kind of find it a great opportunity to experience the profession."

Although still in high school, Irulan said she is already thinking about a career in dentistry or medicine, so this job gives her valuable first-hand experience that could influence her future career path, she said.

Army Community Service is a longtime participant in the summer hire program, and the organization has similar goals for its employees. Stan Austin, the Family Advocacy Program manager at ACS, said he appreciates the students' help and hopes they get some valuable work experience.

By helping around the office, the student hires help families around Camp Zama who benefit from ACS's services, Austin said.

"I think it's an excellent program, not only for ACS, [but for] others, because we get … additional people who can help fit in and fill in when there's an additional need, as well as giving the students some needed work experience," said Austin.

The four summer hires working at ACS help at the front desk, sort coupons, organize the "lending closet," which provides appliances, dishes and cutlery to new families whose household goods have not arrived, and provide support for ACS events, such as the newcomers' orientation.

In addition, the employees also learn how to use word processing software and create spreadsheets. This work helps ACS become more organized, which helps its programs and services run smoothly during the rest of the year, said Austin.


One of ACS's summer hires is Lewis Walter, a rising senior at ZAMHS. Since Lewis plans to attend college next year, he said he hopes his summer job experience will give him a competitive edge in the college application process, especially when applying to rigorous engineering programs.

Another summer hire, Sierra Zantt, is a rising junior who lives in the United States but is staying at Camp Zama for the summer. Sierra said she often works the front desk at ACS.

"Usually, when someone comes to the front desk, you help them and sign them in and control the phone," said Sierra. "And if they call, you tell them where to go or [you] transfer the calls."

With the customer service and office experience she is gaining at her job, Sierra said she now has skills that will make her competitive for college and future employment.

At the end of the summer, these students will have set themselves apart from their peers with their ambition, office experience and professional skills, Austin said.

The summer hire program is incredibly valuable to young students, Austin said, adding, "It gives [the students] some background on what they might want to look for in a future job, so I think that everybody should take advantage of the program."