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Samuel Niblack, left, and Alex Dressel, both 13, play “Call of Duty 2” at the Teen Center on Kadena Air Base, Okinawa.

Samuel Niblack, left, and Alex Dressel, both 13, play “Call of Duty 2” at the Teen Center on Kadena Air Base, Okinawa. (Natasha Lee / S&S)

Samuel Niblack, left, and Alex Dressel, both 13, play “Call of Duty 2” at the Teen Center on Kadena Air Base, Okinawa.

Samuel Niblack, left, and Alex Dressel, both 13, play “Call of Duty 2” at the Teen Center on Kadena Air Base, Okinawa. (Natasha Lee / S&S)

Ciara Cole, 16, left, an 11th-grader, and her sister, TraShawn Cole, 15, a sophomore, both attend Kadena High School.

Ciara Cole, 16, left, an 11th-grader, and her sister, TraShawn Cole, 15, a sophomore, both attend Kadena High School. (Natasha Lee / S&S)

Jermaine White, a soon-to-be 11th-grader at Sasebo Naval Base, Japan, says he's "looking forward to going back, to being one step closer to graduating, and to being back with my friends after being scattered all through the summer."

Jermaine White, a soon-to-be 11th-grader at Sasebo Naval Base, Japan, says he's "looking forward to going back, to being one step closer to graduating, and to being back with my friends after being scattered all through the summer." (Travis J. Tritten / S&S)

Rylobain Mifa is entering the fifth grade at Sasebo Naval Base, Japan. She "can’t wait to see people and my friends and meet my new teacher. I can’t wait."

Rylobain Mifa is entering the fifth grade at Sasebo Naval Base, Japan. She "can’t wait to see people and my friends and meet my new teacher. I can’t wait." (Travis J. Tritten / S&S)

Department of Defense Dependents Schools students across the Pacific certainly have mixed opinions about returning to their classrooms for another school year.

As summer inches closer to the end, one might imagine young people frantically trying to soak up the last few days of sleeping in and lounging by the pool.

Oddly, some teens on Okinawa are looking forward to staring attentively at the dry-erase board.

"I liked algebra last year. I’m looking forward to geometry," said Alex Dressel, 13, who will start eighth grade at Kadena Middle School.

Choosing geometry over video games? Huh?

"I’m kind of getting bored with summer," he added, during a break from playing "Call of Duty 2" on the Xbox 360 against his buddy Samuel Niblack.

Sure, the "no homework" thing will be missed, but there are legitimate reasons for the excitement surrounding a new academic year.

"Friends, lunch, P.E. and ruling the school," said Samuel, 13, an eighth-grader at Ryukyu Middle School.

District middle schools run sixth through eighth grades, so he’ll be at the top of the totem pole. And with that comes great power.

Samuel and Alex say they’ll be role models.

"It’s about being the boss," Alex said.

"They (younger kids) copy everything that you do," Samuel said.

With only a year to soak up the glory before high school, the pressure is on, "because next year we’re back at the bottom," he added.

Others at Kadena Air Base weren’t looking forward to saying goodbye to summer.

"Even though summer is boring, school is boring-er, even though that’s not a word," said TraShawn Cole, 15, who’ll be a sophomore at Kadena High School.

For TraShawn and her 16-year-old sister, Ciara, their summer highlight was a two-week vacation to Waikiki, Hawaii.

"It went by way too fast," said Ciara, a junior.

TraShawn says she’s looking forward to meeting the school’s new principal.

"I’m hoping the new principal will let lowerclassmen go to prom," she said.

On mainland Japan, Yokota Middle School seventh-grader Henry Green, 12, said he’s excited about the upcoming year and plans to run for Student Council. "I’m looking forward to meeting new students and new teachers and seeing old friends," he added.

But Green concedes he’ll miss having free time to play "Halo 3" on Xbox 360.

Samantha Shurman, 13, and her family just moved from Texas to Sasebo Naval Base. She said she’s looking forward to starting eighth grade so she can make new friends in Japan.

"I get to see new people and actually have something to do besides sitting around the hotel," Samantha said.

Jermaine White, entering 11th grade at Sasebo’s E.J. King, said he is eager for the start of school because it will put him one step closer to graduation.

Jermaine says he’ll also be able to see all his friends who were separated during the summer.

"I can’t wait," said 10-year-old Rylobain Mifa, who is beginning fifth grade at Sasebo.

Rylobain said she loves math and is most looking forward to meeting her new math teacher.

For the most part, kids at Yongsan Garrison in South Korea are happy to return to school — mainly, they say, to see their friends again.

"I didn’t get to see many of them over the summer," said 12-year-old Joanita Nalwebuga, who’s starting the sixth grade and added that she’s excited to move on to middle school.

Briana Pitt, 8, also is glad to be going back.

"Actually, I love school," she said. "I love the subjects and meeting all of the new teachers and learning more stuff and making new friends."

Her first-grade-bound sister, 6-year-old Deavian, is also excited about the coming school year, mainly for the chance to get back to "playing and reading," she said.

But not everyone in Seoul is excited about the return of those proverbial pencils, books and teachers’ dirty looks.

Matthew Chon, 12, could muster no enthusiasm for being back in the classroom. He said school subjects, especially social studies, are boring.

"I got bad grades in that one because I couldn’t understand it, and I didn’t pay much attention because it was too boring," he said. "I’m planning to do better this year ... a little at least."

Stars and Stripes reporters Jimmy Norris and Travis J. Tritten contributed to this story.


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