For Ridgeview Charter School’s Japanese teacher Tomomi Davis, the educational travel experience is coming full circle. The Japanese national originally came to the U.S. to study as a high school student, and now will be taking a few specially-chosen seventh and eighth grade students on a 10-day trip to Japan. They will join Japanese language students from Riverwood International Charter School.
Funded entirely by the Japanese government through the Kakehashi Project, a large-scale youth exchange program between Japan and the United States, Ridgeview and Riverwood were among only four schools chosen to participate (RCS is the only middle school) in this trip of a lifetime. Riverwood’s International Baccalaureate status and Ridgeview’s Middle Years Program, the precursor education program that prepares middle school students for the IB Diploma program, made a difference in their qualifications for the trip.
“I am thrilled about this opportunity for my students,” says Sensei Davis, noting that 19 students will be making the trip. “I have been wanting to take my students to Japan for years. The reason why I am here today as a teacher is because I spent two weeks in Knoxville, TN when I was in high school.”
The Kakehashi Project is commissioned by the Japan – U.S. Educational Commission (Fulbright Japan) while The Japan Foundation organizes the project in cooperation with The Laurasian Institution. Promoted by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan, the project aims to heighten potential interest in Japan and increase the number of overseas visitors to the country, as well as enhance international understanding of the “Japan brand”. Through the activities and interactions, visiting students are encouraged to develop a deeper mutual understanding among the people of the Japan and the U.S., enable future leaders of Japan – U.S. exchanges to form networks, and motivate young people to take active roles at the global level in the future.
Dr. Asuza Callaway, Riverwood’s Japanese teacher and Japanese National Honor Society advisor, though not accompanying these students on this trip, took some of her students to Japan in the summer of 2017. “They were very moved by their host families’ hospitality and kindness and loved Japanese food and sightseeing in Tokyo and Kyoto. Everyone wants to go back to Japan!”
The trip will take place March 19 – 27 and will include some sightseeing in Tokyo and “home stay” with Japanese host families for two days in the Tochigi Prefecture.