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GINOWAN, Okinawa — The classrooms are no longer cramped and patchwork; there’s plenty of room here for the important task of learning.

Children at the AmerAsian School on Okinawa started their new school year Saturday in a brand new school building in Ginowan. Sixty children, born of American fathers, many of them servicemembers, and Japanese mothers, are enrolled.

The school is a refuge for the children who cannot attend the Department of Defense Dependents Schools and feel out of place in the Japanese system. It is open for children ages 4 to 15 and offers a bilingual education.

About 150 American and Japanese people gathered at the school Saturday for a ceremony hosted by the American Legion Post 28 on Okinawa to celebrate the grand opening.

“I never thought we could come this far,” said Midori Thayer, founder and principal of the school.

The two-story, 840-square yard building was built with a special subsidy from the Japanese government and is owned by Ginowan City.

The school occupies the first floor while the second floor is used as the city’s human resource development center.

Until the construction began in October, there were many obstacles to clear, said Thayer, after the ceremony. She said she was often disheartened, thinking her dream to provide a better learning environment for the children of such mixed backgrounds would never come true.

“But, owing greatly to the warm and unchanging support both materially and spiritually from many people, we are able to be here today,” she said.

According to Thayer, the U.S. military community has been the school’s major supporter since the school opened in 1998 in Oyama section of Ginowan.

“Members of the American Legion prepared for the move since a month ago,” she said.

“Army people came with a huge truck and other servicemembers from various units, as well as members of the American chamber of commerce, came to help us,” Thayer said.

The school is in a quiet residential area; it has seven classrooms, an office and a large entry.

Thayer said Larry Henry, commander of the American Legion, insisted all the desks and chairs be new to enhance the children’s self-esteem, so the American Legion donated the furniture and eight new computers to the school.

“This school is a product of goodwill of all the people who are here today,” she said.

The building amazed Salina Cedeño, a teacher at Bob Hope Primary School on Kadena Air Base, who taught at the school two years ago.

“What a difference!” she said. “The [old] school was poor and cramped, everybody was in everybody’s way.”

“But Thayer didn’t get discouraged. She kept fighting,” Cedeño said. Without her determined, tenacious efforts, the new school would never have been realized, Cedeño said

“This is a real school with more space to grow and bloom,” she said.

“I’m just in awe at how far this school has come from a little house to this building,” said Jean Clymer, one of the 11 teachers at the school. “We started from nothing,” she said.

“We collected whatever we could find,” she said. “Support from the military community enabled us to survive,” she said.

Different military groups donated various things such as sports equipment, school paper, pens, pencils and all the needed supplies, Clymer said.

Volunteers from Futenma Marine Corps Air Station, Kadena Air Base, Camp Kinser and other bases came to read stories, tutor and do many things to help the school to go on, she said.

“One time, people from Navy dental clinic came to teach children dental hygiene,” she said.

The presence of the volunteers helped the children to see everyone was there to help them, Clymer said.

“These children are our future,” she said. “They need to know that they are important.”


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