TOMODACHI U.S.-Japan Youth Exchange Program Participants Share Lessons Learned

July 29, 2016 at 6pm - 9pm
Washington, D.C.


A student shares her design of a panel for a quilt created by all participants

On July 29, 18 high school students who are participating in the TOMODACHI U.S.-Japan Youth Exchange Program gave a presentation about their experience. This marked the end of the two-week U.S. portion of the program, where Japanese high school students visited their counterparts in Washington, DC, and explored the city together. The Japanese and American students have since left for Japan, and are now visiting Tokyo and the Tohoku region.

The audience included parents, host families, program alumni and friends. Representatives of the TOMODACHI Fund for Exchanges companies, whose generous contributions support this program, were also in attendance.

The students shared what they learned, as well as their hopes for a future that embraces diversity, community development and lasting friendships between the two countries. Their two weeks in DC included homestays and conversations with social entrepreneurs and local civil rights leaders. The participants found the discussions with Mary Murakami (a Camp Topaz internee), Al Goshi (a veteran of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team) and Mary Beth Tinker (an African American nurse who was brought up during the Civil Rights era) particularly memorable. Both the Japanese and American students expressed admiration for the speakers’ stories of strength in the wake of hard times. Many students who were moved by what they learned recited poetry, performed original spoken word, and presented their ideas of what the program means to them.

Another student addresses the audience

While they are excited to be traveling across the world, the students are also keeping the goals of the program in mind. American students Christefer Mitchel and Yeysi Rodriguez anticipate learning more about Japanese culture and language. Japanese students Kimura Higato and Konno Hiroto, while excited to return to their home country, want to inspire their American peers to learn more about Japanese history and tradition. Both the Japanese and American students hope to not only broaden their global awareness, but also teach others the effects of culture and history on modern society. During the presentation, all the students said that they were inspired to do more in their communities by speaking up for their rights and “being the change [they] want to see in the world.” The students expressed previous difficulties and hesitations to take a stand for what they believe in. But, they said, this program has taught them not to let their fears or stereotypes keep them from doing what they believe in.

All students, with representatives of the TOMODACHI Fund for Exchanges companies

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