Americus-Sumter High represented in Japan GEN-J Program 

Published 9:24 pm Friday, September 20, 2019

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AMERICUS — Americus-Sumter High School has been selected by the Japan-America Society of Georgia as one of four schools in the state to participate in the society’s second GEN-J High School Trip to Japan. Twenty students are receiving the all-expenses paid trip with four recipients from Americus-Sumter High School: Joyabhishek Charles, Emily Peacock, James Schopen-Davis, and Passion Thomas. They will accompany peers from Milton High School and Roswell High School who were winners in the 2019 Japan Academic Challenge and Japanese Speech Contests held earlier this year in Atlanta. Islands High School (Savannah) will also be journeying in this cohort.

The Americus students be will accompanied by Gayla Braziel, Federal Programs director for Sumter County Schools.

“I see the power of exchange and our students stepping outside their comfort zones. This level of growth is going to empower them no matter what they do,” offers Braziel. During their trip to Japan, the students will visit several cities including Tokyo, Kamakura, Yokohama, Hiroshima, and Miyajima, along with site visits to shrines, temples, gardens, and other cultural sites.

The GEN-J Program dispatches Grassroots Exchange Facilitators and Japanese-Language Supporters to the U.S. who provide grassroots exchange activities for two years, aiming to strengthen the relationship between Japanese companies operating in the U.S. and the local communities in the U.S. as well as to promote a better understanding of Japan through their grassroots activities. Georgia’s supporter, Mariko Shimoda, is working out of Atlanta in the Japan-America Society of Georgia office. She shares, “The Explore Japan program advances knowledge about Japan for K-12 schools, colleges, Japanese and American businesses, and community groups. The K-12 programs are designed to reinforce the Georgia State Curriculum Standards in social sciences, math, language arts, and fine arts by focusing on culture, geography, storytelling, origami, calligraphy, clothing, language, music, etc. Business programs present topics related to comparative business practices, language, etiquette, etc.”

Local student Passion Thomas wrote in her application essay, “The Land of the Rising Sun, the mixes of ultramodern and traditional, from neon-skyscrapers to historic temples … this could only describe one place, and that magnificent place is none other than Japan. In high school, we may learn about economics, but we need to learn the value of what Japan does for our economy and state.” This competitive exchange required students to write two essays for multiple level evaluation addressing the questions: “What do you hope to gain from participating in this program? How will you continue fostering your interest in Japan after the program?” and “Why do you think it is important for high school students in Georgia to learn about Japanese companies doing business in the United States?”

Americus distinguishes itself with an almost 30-year history of annual transpacific cultural exchanges with its International Sister City Miyoshi City, Japan. This opportunity expands on the existing foundation. “The Japan-America Society of Georgia (JASG) has been intentional in identifying relationships that are poised for the next level of engagement to include economic opportunities. We see Americus as a strategic community to compliment the international collaboration being done at the state level with the newly formed Georgia Japan Legislative Caucus and our new Consul General, Mr. Kazuyuki Takeuchi,” adds Charles Coney, Americus city manager and JASG board member.

For the Americus-Sumter students, this will be a second, and in some cases, a third trip to Japan — each of them are alumni of the annual Miyoshi City exchanges. The students and chaperones will be traveling during the Thanksgiving holiday with Chris Cannon, Georgia Council for Economic Education leading the delegation.

The Japan-America Society of Georgia (JASG) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization whose mission is to promote mutual understanding between the people of Japan and the State of Georgia through establishing and promoting ties and programs in the areas of business, culture, customs, education, commerce, politics, and social networking. It is the place where Japanese citizens come to learn about Americans, and Americans come to learn about the Japanese.