CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — A nonprofit group on Okinawa is working to establish an English-immersion program in Okinawa prefectural schools that will involve full-time teachers from the U.S. military community.

The group is called the Okinawa Development International Council, and the program is getting a push from retired Marine Lt. Gen. Wallace Gregson, former commander of Marine Corps Forces Pacific. It’s familiar territory for Gregson, who started a program on Okinawa when he was the Okinawa Area Coordinator to use American volunteers to teach English in local schools.

The new program would provide funds for permanent teachers.

“The volunteer English program of the active-duty Marines is a wonderful and very successful program that will continue to benefit Okinawan children in the public schools,” said John Lundin, a former Foreign Service officer now living in Hawaii and working on a volunteer basis as the project coordinator.

He said the new program “takes the promotion of English education to a new level, with advocacy for a very high-quality international school and full- or part-time teaching assistance by native speakers to other English-immersion programs that may emerge in the public school system.”

Lundin was hired by Gregson in May 2004, when the program was funded by the Marine Corps. The funding ended last May and Lundin continued to work on a private basis.

“What we want to eventually do is establish a true international, K through 12 school — with Okinawans making up at least half the student body,” he said. “We’ll take advantage of the American base communities as a resource providing opportunities for well-qualified native English speakers …

“We hope to provide full-time teaching opportunities to well-qualified dependents of U.S. personnel,” he said.

Lundin said the nonprofit group was formed to continue what Gregson started.

“A nonprofit organization provides the best vehicle to raise funds, both from private sources and from government sources,” he said. “With leadership in the Okinawan business community, efforts are under way to fully develop such a nonprofit.”

The “international school” is something still in the early planning stages, he said. “It’s intended to be a true international school, with all the subjects taught in English,” he said.

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