August 10, 2017
Summer 2017 marks the fifth year of the TOMODACHI US-Japan Youth Exchange Program (USJYEP), a two-way, month-long cultural exchange between Washington, DC public high school students and their peers from Keio Shonan Fujisawa Senior High School and various schools in the Tohoku region of Japan. The program is managed by American Councils for International Education, in partnership with Globalize DC and Common Earth Co. (Japan).
This year’s program kicked off on July 15th with a three-day dorm stay at the George Washington University, where students jumped immediately into an agenda designed to explore and reflect on American history and culture through visits to national museums and monuments, as well as deep immersion in the local Washington, DC community. Students met with community leaders, took workshops (on topics from social entrepreneurship and photojournalism, to hip hop, slam poetry, and quilting), engaged in community service, met with immigrants, learned about the work of local NGOs, visited corporate offices, and attended a career panel. Beyond the formal daytime program, Japanese students were placed in homestays with local families, which gave them another view of the diversity of American life.
Throughout the two-week program, Japanese and DC students analyzed and discussed the meaning of what they were experiencing, drew comparisons to Japan, and wrote their impressions in the program’s student blog. One dominant theme throughout was the diversity of America – its challenges and its opportunities. Ryotaro wrote about his weekend experience at the beach, where he saw a group of boys playing soccer. “I asked them if I can join them, but they only spoke Spanish. I used gestures to join in, and they let me in. I played beach soccer with them and enjoyed.” After lunch at an Ethiopian restaurant with immigrant students, Raven remarked “that living in D.C. has gotten me so used to seeing people from different countries with different cultures that I don’t really think of that person’s story, so today was really beneficial.” The power of self-expression (in arts, politics, and daily life) was another major theme that impressed the TOMODACHI students. Walking through downtown Washington, the group bumped into a noisy demonstration, prompting Rey to write later, “There were so many people in the line protesting for their health care and I thought to myself, ‘This is America: people speak up for their beliefs and people have the power to change the country the way they want. That’s why they protest.’”
The program uses stories and storytelling as a way for students to connect with deeper concepts – and TOMODACHI students drew many lessons from these interactions that will affect their own lives. From Robert Chiappetta at TOYOTA, Rey learned to “take every chance when it is given to you and you’ll start seeing a new path that you never were able to realize before.” Yuuki was impressed by Andy Shallal, Busboys and Poets restaurant owner, who taught her “the importance of passion which allows us to succeed in life and make the world better.” Mike Malloy at Halcyon House taught Skyy that “having self confidence in your abilities and your ideas can be one of the major factors that allow you to succeed at something.” And over and over students learned from first-hand accounts (of a Japanese American internee, a Hiroshima bombing survivor, a formerly incarcerated young poet) about the importance of hope and looking forward, when faced with adversity. These lessons in resilience will carry forward into the second half of the program in Japan, where the TOMODACHI students will have the opportunity to meet and learn from many individuals rebuilding their lives and communities in Tohoku after the Great East Japan Earthquake.
The DC half of the program ended July 28 with a moving final presentation developed by the students. The DC students eagerly anticipate what will be a first-time trip to Japan for each of them. The Japanese students are returning with new friends, an expanded world view, and a new way of looking at their own culture and lives. This may have very concrete impacts – in large ways and small. As Hide reflected, “I was surprised that my host mother and host father split the housework. Even the children helped. In Japan, only my mother does the housework. When I go back home, I would like to help my mother.”
You can watch the final presentation for the 2017 DC program on youtube here.
August 3, 2016
The DC segment of the 2016 TOMODACHI U.S.-Japan Youth Exchange Program has come to a successful end!
On Friday, July 29, the final day of the DC program, our eighteen student participants presented a fascinating one-hour final presentation to share what they had learned over the prior two weeks.
You can watch their moving presentation here.
Students are now in Japan for Part 2 of this intense, educational two-way exchange. Check out their Student Blog to enjoy the experience through their eyes. Their insights are amazing!
May 19, 2016
We are very pleased to announce the nine (9) fabulous students selected for our 2016 TOMODACHI US-Japan Youth Exchange Program:
Elijah Davis – Eastern SHS – 10th Grade
Michael Green – Ballou SHS – 10th Grade
Jeffrey Jenkins – Dunbar SHS – 10th Grade
Tempestt Martin – Friendship Tech Prep Academy – 10th Grade
Kiara McRae – Dunbar SHS – 11th Grade
Christefer Mitchell – Washington Mathematics Science Technology PCS – 10th Grade
Yeysi Rodriguez – Cardozo Education Campus – 11th Grade
Clinard Smith – Eastern SHS – 10th Grade
Kamashae Tolliver – Columbia Heights Education Campus – 10th Grade
We are also very happy to announce that this year’s Teacher-Chaperone will be Amanda Zigmond, an experienced social studies teacher at Banneker Academic High School.
Thanks to all the teachers, school administrators, family, and friends who encouraged and supported these students through the application process. We have another great group – our largest yet – and expect great things this year. Stay tuned!
September 1, 2015
The third TOMODACHI US-Japan Youth Exchange Program took place this summer and was a great success. This year we had 14 high school student participants – six (6) from DCPS (Eastern, Banneker, School Without Walls) and DC public charter (Friendship Collegiate, Washington Latin, E.L. Haynes) high schools; six (6) from Keio Shonan Fujisawa Senior High School near Tokyo; and two (2) TOMODACHI alumni from the Tohoku region.
The first part of the exchange took place July 15-31 in Japan (focused on Tokyo and Tohoku). The second part of the program took place in Washington, DC from July 31-August 16.
You can learn much more about the 2015 program by reviewing this website and especially by reading the student blog.
Watch a video of the student’s final presentation on the last day of the program here.
Read U.S.-Japan Council’s article on the Japan segment of this year’s exchange here.
Read U.S.-Japan Council’s article on the TOMODACHI U.S.-Japan Youth Exchange Program here.
May 8, 2015
American Councils is currently seeking families in DC and the close-in metro area interested in hosting our visiting Japanese TOMODACHI students from July 31- August 16, 2015. Hosting an international exchange student is a wonderful experience – rewarding for hosts and visitors alike.
If you’re interested, download the Host Family Flyer-TOMODACHI 2015 for more information and contact details.
May 6, 2015
Year Three of the TOMODACHI U.S. Japan Youth Exchange Program has been funded. Again this year six (6) DC and six (6) Japanese students will participate in this two-way international cultural exchange program.
We have just completed our competitive student selection process, and are very pleased to share the names of the 2015 DC TOMODACHI participants:
Andres Alvarez, Jr. – a rising senior at EL Haynes Public Charter School
Korey Carter – a rising senior at Friendship Collegiate Academy
Caitlin McDermott – a rising junior at School Without Walls
Dusan Murray-Rawlings – a rising senior at Washington Latin Public Charter School
Nina Reyes – a rising senior at Banneker Academic High School
Jarid Shields – a rising senior at Eastern Senior High School
Emani Long – a rising senior at Friendship Tech Prep High
Tyrese Williams – a rising junior at Friendship Collegiate Academy
Congratulations to these terrific students! They’re going to have an amazing experience. And kudos as well to all those students who applied for this year’s program. Absolutely everyone was so impressive!
October 4, 2014
We’re happy to share this nice article from U.S.-Japan Council. Much appreciation to Mya Fisher and all her colleagues.
June 19, 2014
We are very pleased to announce the six DC students selected for the 2014 TOMODACHI U.S.-Japan Youth Exchange Program:
Malaika Coleman – rising junior at McKinley Technology High School
Noah Dyson – rising sophomore at School Without Walls
Micah Guthrie – rising junior at Washington Latin Public Charter School
Luke Nogueira – rising sophomore at Duke Ellington School of the Arts
Sierra Queen – rising sophomore at Hospitality High
Gabrielle Towson – rising junior at School Without Walls
We have a bright, diverse, interesting, and energetic group of students – from six different DCPS and DC public charter high schools.
We can’t wait to get started!
Congratulations to our six DC TOMODACHI students and their families!
April 13, 2014
Funding has been approved and plans are underway for Year 2 of the TOMODACHI U.S.-Japan Youth Exchange Program!
Six DC public high school students (DCPS or charter) will be accepted into the program, which includes a 5 week program this summer in DC (part of this time with visiting Japanese high school students) and a 2-1/2 week trip to Japan in November. Fully funded.
Go to our Apply 2014 page for more information and to download the student application.
Application Deadline: Wednesday, May 7, 2014
AND – we are once again seeking short-term host families for the six Japanese exchange students who will be visiting DC this summer. They’ll be here for 2-1/2 weeks between mid-July and early August. Hosting is a wonderful experience if you have the ability and are available. For more information, download the 2014 Host Family Flyer.
March 20, 2014
March 11, 2014 marked the third anniversary of the Great East Japan Earthquake of 2011. The six DC student participants in the TOMODACHI U.S.-Japan Youth Exchange Program selected this date to hold a public presentation at the historic Charles A. Sumner School at the corner of 17th and M Streets, NW. Family, friends, funders, teachers, program volunteers, and members of the community filled the 3rd floor Hurlbut Hall to hear the students share what they had learned from the exchange, and in particular their impressions and feelings about their visit to Tohoku, the region directly impacted by the earthquake and tsunami. It was clear that the visit moved the students deeply – and has motivated them to continue to work to share the stories of the memorable people they met there.
Read the U.S.-Japan Council’s report on the 3/11 event here.
Globalize DC’s Executive Director, Sally Schwartz, started the program by reading the following message from Soohyun “Julie” Koo, Executive Director of the DC Mayor’s Office on Asian and Pacific Islander Affairs:
On behalf of Mayor Gray and the Office on Asian and Pacific Islander Affairs, I would like to express the District’s continued support to the individuals, families, and friends who lost loved ones during the Great East Japan Earthquake on the 3rd anniversary of the disaster.
Cultural exchange programs such as the TOMODACHI US-Japan Youth Exchange Program offer an invaluable opportunity for our students from the District of Columbia to pay their respects to the victims in Tohoku, experience the resilient spirit of the Japanese people, develop friendships full of mutual cultural understanding and appreciation, and build stronger relations with their Japanese counterparts for a more prosperous future.
As Japan continues to rebuild in the aftermath of the disaster, let us continue to remember the lives lost.
June 13, 2013
American Councils for International Education and the U.S.-Japan Council today announced the launch of the TOMODACHI U.S.-Japan Youth Exchange Program. Developed and implemented by American Councils, the exchange program promotes cultural awareness and sensitivity among Japanese and American high school students by focusing on service learning and social entrepreneurship as the primary themes for the study tour.
After living and studying in their host countries, both the American and Japanese students will be required to design a service project with the goal of improving the lives of residents of Tohoku, Japan who are still recovering from the earthquake there that created US$235 Billion in damages and loss.
Read the full announcement here.