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04-13-04, 12:26 PM
Foster’s Young Marines teach toddlers

By Mark Rankin, Stars and Stripes
Pacific edition, Tuesday, April 13, 2004

Originally, Young Marine Cpl. Zane Sisneros, 13, planned to spend his entire weeklong spring break at the local youth center playing computer games and riding his skateboard.

Instead, for five of the seven days, he, two instructors, and 13 other Camp Foster Young Marines, ages 8 to 15, volunteered last week to teach English, reading, arts and crafts, games and American songs to toddlers at the Children’s School House, a day-care facility for Japanese children.

“I like to see them laugh and we’re having fun,” said Sisneros, about to lead a group of toddlers to a play area for nap time.

Kim Wiggins, wife of Sgt. Antwoine Wiggins, Camp Foster Provost Marshal’s Office, thought of the volunteer plan. Wiggins said she has two children in Young Marines and before accepting a teaching position at the school she’d promised to bring them by occasionally to help introduce the Japanese children to American culture.

“It’s a great start for all the kids to get used to one another and build what could be a life-changing relationships,” she said.

“This week is about building character” — an aim of the Young Marines — “and has allowed our kids to see that the only difference is the color of faces,” said the Young Marines commanding officer, Staff Sgt. Gary Wilson from the Marine Wing Support Squadron. “They are all children.”

Wilson said the Young Marines spent four to six hours every day at the school. The group has projects on base, he said, but wanted to do something with the local community.

“This is a lesson both sides will carry with them for the rest of their lives,” Wiggins said. “Our kids have culture in school but Japanese kids don’t have lessons in American culture. ”

Sisneros is to be back in school this week — and, he said, he’ll be waiting for his teacher to ask what he did during spring break. His answer: “I went to school.”


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