A story to tell

by Airman 1st Class Lynette M. Rolen, 18th Wing Public Affairs
Kadena Air Base

KADENA AIR BASE, Japan -- They all had two-and-a-half minutes to tell their story. Hearts pounded and nerves raced as they stood up on a stage in front of a large audience and recited a story in a language foreign to them. In spite of their fear, they plunged ahead.

This was the scene July 14 for 15 local Okinawan children from Yara Elementary, Kadena Elementary and Kadena Junior High Schools at the Kadena Rotary Town Plaza during the 19th annual English contest, hosted by the Kadena Language Institute.

This contest focused on inspiring the children to aim for future global partnerships and world-wide engagements by enhancing their knowledge of the English language.

“It was an amazing experience and an honor to be able to participate in it,” said Col. Paul Oldham, 18th Mission Support Group commander and one of the judges for the contest. “Just to see the incredible courage and the ability of the young students to grasp the English language so easily was rewarding.”

Students memorized a story in English beforehand and were judged based on how quickly and clearly they could tell their story.

One month was the time limit the students had to study for the contest. They spent hours-on-end preparing for those few minutes on the stage.

“The moment I decided to enter this contest, I started practicing,” said Iroha Ganaha, 18th Wing Special Award winner and Kadena Elementary School fifth grade student. “I would practice for one or two hours per day. The language allows me to communicate with a lot of people.”

Ganaha won the 18th Wing Special Award. This award winner is hand-chosen by the 18th MSG commander based on posture, confidence, and other traits displayed by the student during the competition.

“It was so special that I won this award,” said Ganaha. “This award is very unique; different from others. I was surprised when they said my name. I never thought it was coming to me.”

This focus on the success of the students is the main reason the 18th Wing participates in this contest and hosts the 18th Wing Special Award.

“The focus of today was on these students; that’s the biggest thing,” said Oldham. “Hopefully, by engaging in these kind of activities with the community, we’ll grow to understand each other more and gain closer ties with the local community.”

KLI has been partnering with the 18th Wing for 19 years through this contest. Hundreds of children have been positively impacted by this partnership between the 18th Wing and the surrounding Okinawa community.

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