Elk Grove High School's annual Japanese Exchange Program has reached the quarter-century mark with the March 8-22 visit of 10 exchange students and two faculty members from its Japanese sister high schools, Ashikodai and Ashitandai.
In June, Elk Grove orchestra director Bill Baar, cello instructor Gail Baar and nine host students will travel to Ashikaga, Japan, for the second half of the program.
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Elk Grove will provide its guests with a wide variety of American experiences during their stay. Most important are the chances to interact with their host families and with students at school, including those studying Japanese as a world language.
Activities outside school include ice skating at Millennium Park, visiting the SkyDeck at Willis Tower, visiting the Museum of Science and Industry and the Art Institute, and attending a musical and a Bulls game.
The guests will also join students from program coordinator Cliff Darnall's Japanese classes for a field trip to the Mitsuwa Japanese Market in Arlington Heights.
Fifteen school families are involved in hosting. Head chaperon Yukiko Onda is staying at the Baar home, and chaperon Nagako Fukuda is being hosted by the family of freshman Elizabeth Bauer. The Japanese students and their student hosts are as follows: Tomoka Fujita, hosted by senior Carina Colon; Yuuki Hamano, by seniors John Tran and Ryan Adreani; Kurumi Kakita, by senior Raquel Gomez and sophomore Matt Warrington; Haruna Matsushima, by junior Rhenee Pass; Takahiro Nakaarai, by senior Dan Nikov and sophomore Alain Espina; Toshiki Sorimachi, by senior Martin Sarmiento; Ayame Sunaga, by sophomore Alex Arndt; Yuka Sunaga, by junior Stefani Stamboliyska; Meguno "Meg" Yamashita, by senior Katelyn Reyes; and Mikiya Yoshida, by senior Josh Salud.
The many cultural activities here, as well as the ones Elk Grove students will experience in Japan, are made possible through donations, many from local companies and individuals. This year's donors include Meiji Corp., Americ Machinery Corp., Sumitomo Cryogenics of America, Yuasa-Yi International, Shunichiro and Mitsuko Kishioka, and Jarosch Bakery.
"Thanks to such support from the school and the community, this program has been able to give hundreds of students on both sides of the Pacific the chance to experience life in another culture and develop close international friendships over the course of a quarter-century," said Darnall.