Eight recognized for essays about tutoring S. Korean kids
January 3, 2005
YONGSAN GARRISON, South Korea — Sgt. Timothy Wright never really liked kids, he admitted Wednesday morning. The 28-year-old from Washington, D.C., said he just never really understood how to relate to youngsters.
That all changed about a year ago when he agreed to tutor South Korean schoolchildren once a week. Now he has been to three different schools in South Korea to teach kids, and he trains other U.S. soldiers for helping South Korean kids with their English.
“It’s really taught me how to deal with children,” he said.
Wright was one of eight soldiers recognized Wednesday morning for essays about their experiences in the Virtues Development Program. Gen. Leon J. LaPorte, commander of U.S. Forces Korea, presented the winning authors prizes, including Army and Air Force Exchange Service gift certificates and vouchers for free round-trip tickets to the United States.
“This is a real important program,” LaPorte told the small audience in a conference room of USFK’s headquarters on Yongsan Garrison. Each time a U.S. soldier and a South Korean citizen learn from each other, it helps improve relations between the two countries, the general said.
“If Ambassador (Christopher) Hill was here, he would agree with me,” LaPorte added, referring to the top U.S. envoy in Seoul. “He’s not the best ambassador for the nation … you are.”
After the ceremony, Wright agreed with the importance placed on the program.
“The kids teach us more than we teach them,” he said.
Servicemembers sign up for 12-week semesters. Each soldier is put in a classroom of about 35 South Korean children, usually third- to sixth-graders, Wright said. They work for an hour, learning about language and social customs.
This year, the program reached about 3,700 South Korean children, according to the United Services Organization, which runs the program. The USO invited the 150 volunteer teachers to submit essays about their experiences. About 30 did.
“I read all of the essays that were submitted, and it was a tough choice,” USO Director Stan Perry told the winners Wednesday morning. “It was really inspiring for us.”
The first-place prizes were round-trip tickets to the United States, and the winners were Spc. Masaki Sudo and Sgt. Jung Jae Hyun, both of the 17th Aviation Brigade.
Jung, a Korean Augmentee to the U.S. Army, said he wasn’t sure what he would do with his tickets.
“I’ve never been there,” he said after the ceremony. “Maybe … New York?”