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Middle- and high-school students attend a Career Day event at the home of U.S. Forces Japan in western Tokyo, Thursday, May 5, 2022.

Middle- and high-school students attend a Career Day event at the home of U.S. Forces Japan in western Tokyo, Thursday, May 5, 2022. (Juan King/Stars and Stripes)

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YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan – Career Day drew more than 500 middle- and high-school students from this U.S. airlift hub in Tokyo for a glimpse of their possible futures.

A regular event until it was sidetracked by the coronavirus pandemic, the career fair went on as scheduled Thursday for the first time in nearly three years at Yokota Middle School.

Booths lined the gymnasium and more than 120 volunteers represented 60 organizations, including Air Force and Navy recruiting, American Red Cross, the Army and Air Force Exchange Service and West Point/U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The fair attempts to get kids to broaden their thinking about possible professions, Daisy Alegre-Cruz, a social studies teacher and event co-organizer, told Stars and Stripes on Thursday.

Senior Airman Steven Tran displays items from the 374th Maintenance Squadron's aircraft fuel systems during Career Day at Yokota Middle School on Yokota Air Base, Japan, Thursday, May 5, 2022.

Senior Airman Steven Tran displays items from the 374th Maintenance Squadron's aircraft fuel systems during Career Day at Yokota Middle School on Yokota Air Base, Japan, Thursday, May 5, 2022. (Juan King/Stars and Stripes)

Students line up to speak with Chief Christopher Stevens, a Navy counselor, during Career Day at Yokota Air Base, Japan, Thursday, May 5, 2022.

Students line up to speak with Chief Christopher Stevens, a Navy counselor, during Career Day at Yokota Air Base, Japan, Thursday, May 5, 2022. (Juan King/Stars and Stripes)

“It’s really just to expose students to different career areas they can go into, not just from a military standpoint, but also lots of other civilian careers,” she said.

Students quizzed presenters about their chosen careers. The science-fair format, with questions prepared for the middle-schoolers to ask, was designed to helped them engage with presenters, Alegre-Cruz said in an email to volunteers Tuesday.

“I’m really excited to ask people all these questions, why they chose their career choice and what circumstances they were looking through to decide what they wanted to do,” eighth-grader Giselle Pinard, 14, told Stars and Stripes.

Another organizer felt the fair is just the thing to open kids’ minds to what is available for their futures.

“It exposes the kids to things they don’t even know exist. Most kids’ idea of what they want to do after high school comes from TV,” middle-school counselor Skip Bennett said Thursday. “There’s just a world of things they can do, and this just gives them some insight into that.”

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Juan King is a reporter, photographer and web editor at Yokota Air Base, Japan. He joined the U.S. Navy in 2004 and has been assigned to Stars and Stripes since 2021.
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