The principal of Schaumburg's Thomas Dooley Elementary School, home to an innovative Japanese-English dual-language program, will visit Japan and its earthquake-ravaged Fukushima region next month.
Marion Flaman, who is herself half-Japanese and visited her grandparents in the region as a child, will be a member of the U.S.-Japan Council's leadership delegation from March 8 to 16.
Flaman said she hopes to inform Japanese leaders about the American educational system and its interest in Japan, as well as learn more about developing opportunities for Americans fluent in Japanese.
She said her work on Dooley School's dual-language program as both a Schaumburg Township Elementary District 54 administrator and now principal is the basis of her inclusion to the delegation.
"I always wanted to bring the two languages together and this school is the perfect match," Flaman said.
The delegation will be in the Fukushima area on the second anniversary of the earthquake that triggered a tsunami and subsequent crisis at a nuclear reactor there. A large emphasis of the trip will be the rebuilding of the region.
Among the other members of the delegation will be a dean of health and nursing at Georgetown University, a deputy fire chief from Los Angeles, a social media entrepreneur, an educator specializing in autism, an attorney and the vice president of a commercial real estate firm.
All are expected to look at the places they're visiting through the eyes of their own professions and share their conclusions with each other and their Japanese hosts.
Laura Hayes, senior communications manager of the U.S.-Japan Council, said the requirements and makeup of each year's delegation changes every time. With an emphasis on regional revitalization this year, Flaman was selected by Chicago's Japanese consulate as a good representative of the educational field, Hayes said.
Dooley School's dual-language programs -- made up of an even mix of native Japanese and English speakers -- will be a compelling topic among Japanese leaders at a time when China's Mandarin language is growing in popularity in U.S. schools, Hayes said.
Flaman's half-Japanese background also will give Japanese citizens a better idea of what America's Japanese community looks like, she added.
While people of mixed race are becoming increasingly common in cosmopolitan Tokyo, they probably are a rarer commodity in the more rural Fukushima area, Flaman said.
One of the things Flaman is most interested in learning more about is the impact Japan's aging population is having on its society, and what opportunities that may create for graduates of Dooley School's program at the many Japanese companies located in Schaumburg.
She also wants to compare her childhood memories of Fukushima with the region of today. Though Flaman lived and worked in other parts of Japan for several years, she's never been back to Fukushima since visiting her grandfather's farm there as a girl.
"I hope to see what the people are feeling there," Flaman said.
Though the safety and rebuilding of the region will be highlighted, a small area immediately around the damaged nuclear plant is still considered out of bounds, she said.