J.W. Sexton freshman Colin Janak is one of twenty-three students selected for the Kakehashi Project in Japan.
By Howard T. Spence
LANSING, MI -- Twenty-three lucky students from the Lansing School District (LSD) who attend J.W. Sexton High School or Everett High School are being invited to participate in a two-week long, fully funded, all expenses paid trip to Japan next spring. The invitation and funding for the trip are made possible by a grant from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan. The LSD students will be acting as “junior ambassadors” to Japan from the Greater Lansing area and the United States. Their trip to Japan will occur from March 19 through March 27 of 2018.
The invited students will be participating in Japan's “Friendship Ties Program." This program has been developed in Japan to promote people to people exchanges between Japan and the various nations of the Asia-Pacific, North America, Europe, Latin America, and Caribbean countries. The North American component of this program in which the Lansing students will be participating is called the "Kakehashi Project.” The purpose of the program is to encourage an understanding of Japan's economy, society, history, diverse culture, politics and diplomatic relations.
The LSD was one of only eight school districts in the entire United States that were selected and invited to participate on the trip and project in the 2018 school year. The eight school districts which received invitations and exchange international travel awards this year were chosen for participation in the Kakehashi Project by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan after a heated competition among school districts nationwide for these awards.
The selection and invitation to participate extended to the LSD for one of the 2018 grant awards were communicated to Ms. Bridget Cooper and Ms. Dawn Stark by Ms. Reah Young of the Office of the Consulate General of Japan, which is located in Detroit.
Ms. Cooper teaches first and second-year Japanese language and culture courses at J.W. Sexton High School, and Ms. Stark teaches classes for course years one through four of Japanese language and culture at Everett High School. The Japanese Consulate in Detroit recommended both schools because of their interactions with them over the years.
"My colleague Ms. Stark and I have for years been seeking to find ways to enhance the inter-cultural educational experience of our students here in the Lansing School District in our classes. We have had great success and high-interest levels among students at our respective schools from our students who want to learn more about people and cultures across the globe. Exposure to the international aspects of economy and cultures will be crucial to the next generation of young people that we are now trying to educate and train to be competitive in the world," said Ms. Cooper. "We are always seeking to provide our students – especially in our urban public school district here in Lansing – with some of the same greater learning and development opportunities that other larger and more affluent school districts might be able to offer their students.”
Ms. Stark, who teaches Japanese language and culture courses at Everett High School also spoke of the importance of giving enhanced chances to learn foreign languages to help students better understand and compete in the global market of today and the future. She pointed out that students should benefit by learning a complete knowledge of Japan, which is one of the major United States trading partners.
Finalists selected for the Kakehashi Project were involved in a competition for the slots which included a first-round written essay screening process. The almost forty students at the two high schools who passed the essay screening were then each individually interviewed by a panel of three community leaders.
Colin Janak was one of the students selected to participate in the Kakehashi Project. Colin is only a freshman at Sexton, but he clearly is a mature young man with an international and multicultural background.
“Getting a chance to visit Japan and to make international friends from all around the world is a great thrill and opportunity for me,” Colin stated. “In the future, I hope to get even more opportunities to do that.”
Colin’s mother, Mrs. Veronica Janak, also was excited to learn that her son was selected to represent J.W. Sexton High School on the Kakehashi Project trip.
“Colin is only a freshman learning Japanese,” said Mrs. Janak. “I told him not to get his hopes up too high, but encouraged him to go ahead and compete for a slot on the Kakehashi trip. He is so excited. I am so proud of him for being selected to go. He has already posted about this on his Facebook page!”
“We have a multicultural family,” explained Mrs. Janak, “and I know my children including Colin are aware that having a global perspective and a variety of types of friends is important in the future not only for him personally but also for our country in general. I told him and the rest of the children in our family that we need to be building friendships and understanding – not walls between people of different cultures and ethnic backgrounds.”
This program is designed to heighten potential interest in Japan and increasing the number of overseas visitors to the country of Japan. The project also is designed to enhance international understanding of the "Japan Brand" as well as the national strengths and attractiveness of Japan and its economy.
This youth exchange program’s objective is to promote a deeper mutual understanding among the people of Japan and the United States. A goal is to also enable future leaders of Japan and United States to participate in exchanges and to form networks.
For more information about the Kakehashi Project, go to www.laurasian.org/kakehashi.
Printed in the December 10, 2017 - December 23, 2017 edition.