The education of Japanese-speaking Americans is an extremely important issue for nurturing the next generation of individuals who will take on the responsibility for U.S.-Japan relations and for strengthening the foundation of the U.S.-Japan partnership. With this in mind, the JCAWF decided to establish multiple projects which, by supporting Japanese education in the U.S. in various ways, together provide opportunities for young Americans to learn about Japan and its culture, fostering interest in Japanese language study, and ultimately providing these youths with opportunities to consider careers that utilize their Japanese language skills. We will now report on the current status of these projects.
① Sakura Grant
The Sakura Grant program was established to support Japanese language education and Japanese cultural education in public, private, charter, and magnet schools at the K-12 level in the Washington, DC area (Washington DC, Maryland, Virginia, and Delaware) and in the New York area (New York, Connecticut, and New Jersey). From the spring of 2013 and on, based on the applications from relevant area schools and consideration by the Grant Committee, the following 31 schools were identified as award recipients, and we have sent the funds to them starting in October as you can see in the chart below. In May of 2014 as well, we intend to send grant information to relevant area schools with an application deadline of June, and after consideration by the Grant Committee in September, we will identify award recipients and send the funds to the schools.
Now, of those high schools which were awarded the Grant, we would like to report on the use which Eleanor Roosevelt High School (Roosevelt High School below) is currently making of the Grant.
- Since 1982, Roosevelt High School has been the sister school of the prefectural Yokohama Suiran High School in Kanagawa, the sister prefecture of Maryland, and has utilized the Sakura Grant for cultural exchange projects with Suiran High School. These cultural exchange projects include 20 to 30 students and teachers from each school taking turns attending their sister school and spending approximately one week participating in classes and field trips, as well as home-stays.
- In March of 2014, the JCAWF was invited to the welcoming ceremony held at Roosevelt High School. About 300 students gathered in the Roosevelt High School auditorium, and students from both schools performed drama, dance and music. According to Roosevelt High School’s vice principal and the foreign language teachers, Japanese is a popular choice among their foreign language curricula. In addition, the exchange programs with Yokohama Suiran High School have come to be traditional events at Roosevelt High School, and the Roosevelt High School students are always excited to prepare for the welcoming event.
- A great significance lies in these U.S.-Japan cultural exchanges for these high school students during this crucial period of personality development. While watching the welcoming ceremony, we could see that the Sakura Grant had provided effective support for such development.
The Sakura Grant program began in 2012 and we intend to continue accepting applications for five years through 2016. The program has received much attention from the American Association of Teachers of Japanese (AATJ), and we have received many thanks from Japanese teachers. In the future, through the JCAWF website, we intend to include feedback from grant recipient schools and teachers regarding specific uses of the funds.
② Japan-America Society of Washington DC “Sakura Matsuri” Language Tent
We again set up a “Let’s Learn Japanese – Nihongo Dekimasu!” tent as part of the Japan-America Society of Washington, DC (JASW) Cherry Blossom (Sakura) Street Festival on April 12 this year. As in previous years, volunteers in the tent wearing t-shirts reading “Nihongo Dekimasu (I Can Speak Japanese)” will teach visitors about the origins of hiragana, katakana and kanji, calligraphy and Japanese games, letting visitors experience first-hand the fascinating aspects of the Japanese language.
③ Japanese Language Education Symposium, Seminar
We continue to consider holding events such as symposiums and seminars to create opportunities for information exchange and networking between Japanese language students, Japanese language teachers and Japanese corporations. Though such events were not held last year, we hope to do so this year.