Wednesday, May 5, 1999

By Craig T. Kojima, Star-Bulletin
Waianae High student Nicole Timbreza says the
one-on-one help she gets from Sgt. Timothy
Hansen makes algebra "less complicated."

25th Division
soldiers share
goodwill, work
at Waianae

They've become friends
and mentors at the school
on the Leeward coast

By Gregg K. Kakesako


There is a new presence at Waianae High School -- one that educators believe is fostering not only a better understanding of the military in Hawaii, but also an attitude of pride in the Leeward Oahu student body.

Since mid-April, nearly two dozen soldiers from the 25th Division's artillery unit have been tutoring students and serving as special education class mentors.

Hazel Sumile, Waianae High principal, described the interaction between the students and soldiers as very positive.

"The students need the help," said the administrator of the 2,150-member student body. "It's also good for the students to see the military in this way."

Suzanne Yamada, Waianae vice principal, said the school has never had a formal adult mentoring program and "we hope to develop a long-term relationship with the Army."

"It's a big help for the teachers," Yamada said, "and it helps foster respect in the classroom."

Dolores Christiansen, special education science teacher, said the soldiers in her classroom are "good role models."

"They are teaching the students how to respect teachers and those who are in authority," she said.

'Anything and everything'

Capt. Jeff Helms, commander of F Battery 7th Field Artillery, said the project was initiated by Col. Jose D. Riojas, head of the division's artillery unit.

"Colonel Riojas had run a similar high school program when he was a battalion commander at Fort Bragg," Helms said.

The affiliation with Waianae High started with soldiers in February showing up to paint a few school buildings.

By Craig T. Kojima, Star-Bulletin
Student Ashley Cowles listens in Spanish class,
as do helpers Spec. Hector Campos and
Pvt. Jose Ramos, rear.

Later the call for volunteers went out and the response from both sides was overwhelming.

"Teachers wanted us to do anything and everything, even guarding the bathrooms," Helms said.

The security detail was nixed because the Army was looking for ways to have the soldiers interact with the students.

"We also wanted to expose soldiers to things they normally don't do and we wanted to instill pride in them."

Yamada also noted that soldiers also had to realize that although some of them may be just a few years older than the students they are helping, "they are the adults and the role models."

Pvt. Jose Ramos, who graduated from high school in San Diego only last year, is one such soldier.

Fluent in Spanish, Ramos, 19, works Mary Esther Correa's Spanish I class each day.

"I feel good helping here," said Ramos. "I know that pronunciation of Spanish words is really hard for them.

"I work with them to pronounce the words and help them with the definitions."

One-on-one help

Seventeen-year-old Nicole Timbreza appreciated the special attention she has been getting from Sgt. Timothy Hansen in Beth Darius' basic algebra class.

"It's less complicated now," said Timbreza as Hansen helped with an algebra substitution problem.

"It's less complicated because I am getting help one on one."

Among the soldiers is a 1980 Waianae High graduate, Sgt. 1st Class Milo Sinapati, who wants to help the students better themselves.

Sinapati, 37, enlisted in the Army right after graduation because he said he didn't know what to do. "But as soon as I was in basic training, I knew I wanted to re-enlist."

But Sinapati said he's not on the Waianae campus to recruit new soldiers.

"I'm here to tell them to get a diploma," Sinapati said.

"If you got a diploma, it gives you more chances to get into what you want to later on."

They want to return

The pilot project will end at the end of this month when the soldiers are required to spend more time in the field training.

Helms said he hopes to return to the Waianae campus when the new school year begins and when his soldiers return from field exercises at the end of summer.

Already Helms has a request from a Waianae High Hawaiian studies teacher who wants the Army to better prepare her students for field work by giving classes in map reading, land navigation and terrain recognition -- skills that should come as second nature to soldiers in camouflage fatigues.

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