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First International Student Attends WKCTC Extreme Lego Camp

Shinya Takagai and Toby Gray working with legosShinya Takagai looked just like the rest of the youngsters concentrating intensely as he assembled a vast collection of colorful interlocking plastic bricks at the Extreme Lego Camp at West Kentucky Community and Technical College Monday.

But the energetic 12-year-old is different. A native of Chiba, Japan, Shinya is the first international student to attend WKCTCs popular Lego camp at the Emerging Technology Center.

He was able to come to the United States through an international exchange program called LABO, similar to Americas 4-H program. Shinyas host family Joe and Sheila Gray along with their two sons, Toby and Micah, travelled five hours from Covington to participate in the week-long Lego camp.

Sheila Gray said her nine-year-old son, Toby, has loved Legos since he was four years old.

The Grays planned their vacation in the Paducah area just so Toby could come to the WKCTC camp. When they decided to participate in the LABO program this year, they knew attending the Extreme Lego Camp with Toby would be also be wonderful experience for Shinya as well, Gray said.

Shinya speaks very limited English, but learning with Legos builds on non-verbal communication, Gray said. So Shinya and Toby can learn together with no language barriers.

Joe and Sheila Gray lived in Japan for two years and taught English as part of the LABO program. They are able to communicate with Shinya in his native language.

Shinya will be with the Gray family until the end of August. The Lego camp gives him and Toby more in common, said Joe Gray. So they can have fun learning with Tobys thousands of Legos even after the camp is over.

When asked how he felt about getting to attend the Extreme Lego Camp, Shinya smiled and summed up his feelings in one word as translated by Joe Gray excited!

Kevin ONeill, WKCTC Workforce Solutions continuing education and community services coordinator, said the college was excited to share in Shinyas experiences in America. The Lego camps teach science, math, engineering, and technology skills to the young students in our region, ONeill said. Its wonderful to be able to expand this program to an international student.

The camp ends Friday. More information about continuing education offerings at WKCTC can be obtained by calling (270) 534-3335.