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Teens and parents gather in the Kubasaki High School cafeteria for Camp Foster's first teen forum.

Teens and parents gather in the Kubasaki High School cafeteria for Camp Foster's first teen forum. (Fred Zimmerman / S&S)

CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — Marine community officials held a first-of-its-kind forum at Kubasaki High School on Wednesday afternoon to share information with young adults and allow their voices to be heard.

More than 50 teenagers and about two dozen parents met in the school’s cafeteria for the teen forum. A dozen persons provided information on everything from Children, Youth and Teen Programs and Semper Fit Athletics to base libraries and summer employment opportunities.

The forum is important, said Carl Hodges of the base inspector’s office, as “teens need to know the command and community is interested in them.” She said teens also need to learn how to communicate what their needs are, so activities they want are offered.

“We need to combat the battle cry of, ‘I’m bored, there’s nothing to do,’” Hodges said.

After speakers showcased what they had to offer over the summer break, the floor was opened for teens and parents to express their wants and concerns —- among which were no skate park in the Plaza Housing area, summer hire program dates and different youth sports uniforms. Parents’ concerns ranged from the possibility of offering summer band camps and gymnastics to shuttle buses being run among camps.

The hottest discussion topic was the lack of a dedicated teen center on Camp Foster. MCCS officials said they recently had to turn the facility into a “youth/teen center,” giving each group certain hours they can use it — younger kids right after school and teens later in the evening. One parent addressed the audience and said the teenagers need a place they can call their own, where they are offered food, video games, pool tables and dancing.

“Like a Chuck E. Cheese for those 12 and over,” said the parent. “It’s an ongoing request that no one is listening to.”

Her remarks drew applause from all the teens in attendance. MCCS officials said they would look into the possibility.

Amber Baker, a senior at Kubasaki, has been on Okinawa for eight years and said she’s happy with the way things are.

“They all do a good job,” Baker said, referring to the organizations represented at Wednesday’s forum. “I think they listen to teen input.”

Baker said if she could change one thing, it would be more job opportunities offered to teens. She filled out a job application after the forum and said she probably would try to get hired as a cashier.

Gunnery Sgt. Juanita Moore, who has two teenagers in high school, said the forum was important because adolescents “have their own voice and concerns. If you don’t listen to teens, that’s when they can find something else to occupy their time and get into trouble.”

The forum wasn’t standing-room only but Hodges said he considers it a success.

“We had a lot of people here and they expressed their points well,” he said. “This is a common-sense demonstration that (teens) are important to us.”

Hodges said plans are in the works to hold follow-on teen forums more than once a year.

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