People say that Kwajalein is shaped like a boomerang and people eventually come back to it over time. This is evident with several Kwaj kids, the term bestowed upon individuals who grew up part of their life on Kwajalein and have returned to live and work here.
When were you here as a kid?
I arrived on Kwaj at age 3. I attended preschool all the way through high school out here on Kwaj. I graduated from Kwajalein High School in 2012.
Where did you go after graduation?
When I left Kwaj I went to Tucson, Arizona, where I attended the University of Arizona.
What brings you back?
There were several things that drew me back to Kwaj. My mother and father still live here, and my brother and sister-in-law had just moved back when I made the trip back. In addition, my girlfriend, Annalise, had also accepted a job on Kwajalein and was awaiting her travel dates.
How was it growing up here?
Growing up on Kwaj was an absolute dream. There is so much to do in such a small proximity that you can fill your days with endless activities. In the United States, seemingly every event brings with it a commute. On Kwaj you can bounce around from one activity to another with a 2-minute bike ride or walk. My favorite memory of living on Kwaj was spending weekend days beach hopping and/or being out on the boat. I loved finding spots that people don’t usually visit and feeling like an explorer.
Do you think the island has changed?
This is a question I have fielded quite regularly since being back. I truly do not think many things have changed at all. Sure, there are a few less people and the buildings look a bit older, but in my mind, it’s all the same. When I close my eyes, the sound of the waves and the smell of the air bring me right back.
What is your role on Kwaj now?
I am the Child and Youth Services sports coach. I have the unique role of working with youth between the ages of 3 and 18. I have always loved sports and admired the people in my life who spent time coaching me on the court, on the field and in the pool. So, I am happy to be back to try and transfer that same energy and attention that I received when I was young to the new crop of Kwaj Kids.
What is the best part of Kwaj life?
The best part about living on Kwaj is being close and connected to community. Some of my greatest memories growing up here involved large community gatherings like the Spring Break Music Festival at Emon Beach. There is a great energy that exists when our whole community is gathered and enjoying each other’s company.
What inspired you to become a teacher?
I have been working here for one year now and I have had the opportunity to meet most of the children between ages 3-18. I have to say I am very impressed with how smart, kind and respectful they are. Getting to know the kids makes me proud to be a Kwaj Kid.
How long have you been back on Kwaj, and is this the first time you've returned since you lived here?
I have been back for one year. I was here every year from 2012- 2019.
Is there anything else you'd like to add?
I would like to encourage all members of our Kwajalein community to learn about the Marshallese culture and visit Ebeye and Majuro. We are so lucky to be out here in the Marshall Islands enjoying the beautiful weather and the gorgeous ocean.
If you feel connected to the islands, take time to learn about the history of the greatest ocean seafarers who used starlight, stick charts and outrigger canoes to navigate these vast waters.