The 2018 DC Team

Heavenly Anderson

Heavenly is a 15-year old rising junior at Friendship Collegiate Academy, where she is enrolled in the Early College Academy. Her career interests include psychology and criminal law. She enjoys volleyball, dance, playing drums, music, movies, and going out with friends. At school, she participates in Global Kids and the school news network, and tutors students and works at a food bank for community service.

Personal Statement: Heavenly says she has always felt “overlooked” in her academic setting, despite her test scores and the “raves” from the adults around her about her potential. When a mentor brought this TOMODACHI opportunity to her attention, Heavenly didn’t hesitate to apply. She is extremely excited to travel (she has never been out of the country before), to learn about a new culture, to meet new people, explore new sites, and forge friendships and connections that she will be able to carry forward into her future. Heavenly is also passionate about addressing global issues, and has had experiences working with her peers to understand and find solutions to world problems. She is persistent, dedicated, enthusiastic, and even though she may appear quiet at first glance, she can be very outgoing and versatile. Part of her motivation for applying for the TOMODACHI program is her desire to be a role model and share this experience with peers in her community to encourage them to reach out for more.

Jerusalen Elizaldi

Jerusalen, 16, is a rising senior at Columbia Heights Education Campus (Bell SHS). She is the only member of the 2018 TOMODACHI team from DC who was studying Japanese prior to applying for the program. Jerusalen is interested in a career in education, and is particularly interested in teaching internationally. Her current school activities include cross country, softball, piano, flute, ceramics, Poetry Club, video games, and photography. She loves animals and anything art-related.

Personal Statement: Jerusalen first encountered Japanese art in middle school. She particularly loved manga and Japanese ceramics. She is interested in the TOMODACHI program because she believes it will open her up to new experiences and a new cultural understanding of Japan. She is very interested in learning how Japanese high school students experience life. She looks forward to interacting with other people, seeing their point of view on global issues, and having the opportunity to share her own side of the world. She was also motivated to apply by the opportunity to learn about and help people affected by the tsunami. Jerusalem is diligent, creative, and especially loves photography. She wants to see positive change in the world, and says she is called a “hippy” at school because of her interest in world peace.

Racquel Jones

At 14, Racquel is the youngest TOMODACHI participant this year. She is a rising sophomore at Woodrow Wilson Senior High School. At school, she is involved in Common Ground, which addresses current events and controversial world issues, and Model UN. She enjoys painting, literature, poetry, and participates in photography club. She looks forward to a career in architecture or interior design. Her community service activities include preparing meals for those in need, and helping the homeless.

Personal Statement: Racquel has possessed a keen interest in Japan, its people, history and culture for as long as she can remember. As a young girl, she learned from her father about Japan’s gift of the iconic cherry blossoms to Washington, DC, and every spring she is deeply moved by the city’s cherry blossoms as a symbol of friendship and humanity, even in spite of historic pain and suffering that has occurred between the two countries. She enjoys trying new things, and learning about how other countries function. She describes herself as open-minded, curious, kind, generous, and a strong leader, but also a great participant when she needs to be. She looks forward to sharing her own culture and city with her Japanese counterparts, and exchanging fun facts about the similarities and differences between the two countries. She hopes to have a life-impacting experience, and form life-long productive relationships with her DC and Japanese peers around service, cooperative learning, and implementing solutions to global challenges.

Arjernae Miller

Arjernae, 16, is a rising senior at Phelps Architecture, Construction, and Engineering (ACE) HS. Her academic interests include architecture, engineering, construction, and law enforcement. She also is involved in music production, design, art, and photography. She is a member of HerStory, a mentoring and community service program giving girls a chance to achieve their goals; Ward8Reads, a literacy program; Student Government Association; and participates in Parade Float Building.

Personal Statement: AJ has long dreamed of achieving more than her life circumstances have presented to her. She knows that to accomplish all she wants to in life, she needs to be willing to step “outside the box,” and she believes the TOMODACHI program presents her with a great opportunity to do just that. This will be her first time traveling internationally. She’s fascinated by Japan’s scenery, culture, and art, and wants to see it up close and personal. AJ describes herself as sometimes quiet, sometimes goofy, energetic, positive, and cheerful. She is open-minded, tenacious, and willing to learn anything. She has a strong personality and enjoys helping out any way she can. She believes in fairness and justice for all, no discrimination, and as her community work on literacy has demonstrated, she works hard to make a positive difference.

Miles Peterson

Miles, 17, is a rising senior at Benjamin Banneker Academic High School, an International Baccalaureate school. His academic and career interests include technology and software development, journalism, and writing. At school, he participates in the M.O.S.T. (Men of Strength) Club, Literacy Magazine, and Debate Club, and interns at In3, an Inclusive Incubator Space for growing technology businesses and entrepreneurs of color in DC. His other activities include tennis, writing, music (rap), and poetry.

Personal Statement: Miles is an activist on Black issues and humanitarian efforts. He applied for the TOMODACHI program because he wants to prepare himself to be a global citizen. He has a longstanding interest in ancient Japanese art and culture, but is excited to learn so much more about Japan and Japanese culture through this first-hand, authentic experience, not just through media dramatizations or Western portrayals. He is anxious to immerse himself in another language, cuisine, culture, and lifestyle, and to understand the world from a different perspective. He also thinks it is important to share the lessons he will learn with others in his community. Miles is intrigued and excited to meet with locals, especially earthquake and tsunami survivors, and learn from their lives. He describes himself as intellectually curious, mature, and self-confident. He wants to use this learning experience to help him become a more informed, stronger, wiser, and positive man and human being. He looks forward to working collaboratively with his Japanese and DC peers to create a safe, intriguing, eye-opening, and impactful experience.

Carlos Daniel Ramirez

Carlos, an 18-year old rising senior at Roosevelt SHS, with career interests in computer science, psychology, and international business. Carlos enjoys many different activities – soccer, basketball, walking, running, cycling, traveling, nature, video games, anime, reading, singing, dancing, and music. [Since returning from the TOMODACHI program, Carlos has transferred to School Without Walls, where he will complete his final year of high school.]

Personal Statement: Carlos says he’s been waiting his whole life for the moment when he will be able to travel to Japan and connect with its people. As a child growing up in El Salvador, Carlos always loved to discover the rest of the world through TV and books. His dream was to visit a lot of different countries, make new friends, and explore. His passion for Japan was ignited through video games and anime. He greatly looks forward to discovering the beauty of Japan – not just nature, but the people’s kindness, punctuality, and hospitality. Daniel makes friends easily. He has a “live and let live” attitude. He is a good listener, and learns languages quickly. He is also a fanatic about forests and nature, and believes strongly in taking advantage of every moment to live a good life, build strong friendships, and create lasting memories.