On October 23, two participants of this summer’s TOMODACHI U.S.-Japan Youth Exchange program testified about their experiences before the DC State Board of Education. The TOMODACHI U.S.-Japan Youth Exchange program brought together six Japanese high school students from Tokyo with six students from Washington, DC for a three week program this summer focusing on social entrepreneurship and creative solutions to social problems.
The State Board of Education is considering changing standards that would permit students to receive academic credit for study abroad or international exchange programs such as this one. As public high school students, they wanted to share with the board the impact participating in the program had on them.
“This summer has been an eye-opening, life-changing, and unforgettable one for me,” shared Atiya Artis, a student at Coolidge High School. “I had the pleasure of not only meeting, but also forming personal bonds with eleven teenagers. I saw my own city in a way that I had never seen before. My mind expanded to great measures as I learned to question everything. Overall, the TOMODACHI program opened the door for me to become the inquiring, open minded, daring, alert person I am today.”
For these students, the summer was only the beginning. They are continuing to learn about Japan and Japanese culture and finding ways to tell others under the direction of Globalize DC.
U.S.-Japan Council Program Manager Mya Fisher represented USJC with a statement about the Council, the TOMODACHI Initiative and its relationship to the program.
The American students will make a reciprocal visit to Tokyo in November. While in Japan, they will meet with a number of Japanese organizations that support communities facing issues such as homelessness. They will also travel to Tohoku to learn about the various people and organizations supporting rebuilding efforts in the region. All six students will be visiting Japan for the first time and are looking forward to inspiring others to visit Japan by sharing their experiences when they return.