Blue Star of Life

By Jazmin Angel-Guzman

On Tuesday, October 31st 2017 I had the opportunity to go to the Blue Star of Life Ceremony at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and met nine wonderful Japanese students. All of us DC students had the opportunity to drop pebbles inside the vase, Blue Star of Life, to symbolize peace and friendship between the United States and Japan.

It was a once in a lifetime experience for me because it was a life lesson that Sally Schwartz taught me and once said, “Life is more than being in a classroom.” It even motivated me to get out of my comfort zone and learn more about our interconnected world. As much as I was nervous of meeting university students and a high school student, it made me realize that they were also nervous and they’re just like me. I wish there were more experiences like this and this has definitely taught me a lot about global citizenship.

Globalize DC joins J-LEARN Fall Seminar at GWU

On November 5, 2017, Globalize DC’s Director, Sally Schwartz, joined a Sunday afternoon seminar, sponsored by J-LEARN, on the current state of K-12 Japanese language education in the greater Washington, DC region. J-LEARN is a grassroots organization created by a coalition of parents, educators, and concerned individuals from the local DC area and dedicated to promoting and supporting the teaching of Japanese language and culture in public schools. The lively presentation and discussion focused on the benefits of Japanese language education for K-12 students preparing to enter the 21st century global economy, and strategies for promoting Japanese in a time of budgetary constraints, competition from other languages, and other challenges. We were happy to share information about our own afterschool model (Japanese Plus) as evidence that Japanese language teaching and learning is taking hold among DC public school students.

The event was held in conjunction with J-LIVE (Japanese Learning Inspired Vision and Engagement) Talk, an annual Japanese language speech competition for university students, held at George Washington University. The occasion was also an opportunity to recognize the contributions of Ambassador John R. Malott, President of the Japan-America Society of Washington, DC, for his work in promoting US-Japan relations and Japanese language education.

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Japanese Plus welcomes Kakehashi students from Okinawa

Interacting with exchange students from Japan is always a program highlight for our Japanese Plus students. So Saturday, November 5, was an exciting day, when our group hosted 23 high school students from Okinawa visiting DC on a Kakehashi exchange program, facilitated by Youth For Understanding. This was our third time hosting a Kakehashi exchange, but our first group of high school students (last year we enjoyed two university student groups).

First, our Okinawan visitors used power point to share information about their school and key features of Okinawan history and culture. Our students learned that Okinawa has a distinctive history, language, and culture, in addition to its identity as a prefecture of Japan. Then two of the visiting students put on an impressive martial arts demonstration. The Japanese presentation was followed by small group discussions in English and Japanese, and a quick game of Concentration – a way for all students to practice their language and intercultural communication skills. Then it was DC’s turn to share an aspect of local culture – teaching the Cha Cha Slide. Now that was fun!

Once the morning program was ended, the whole group traveled to Columbia Heights for lunch at Z-Burger. That’s when the real communication and bonding could begin! Thanks to our partners at Youth For Understanding for again including Globalize DC’s Japanese Plus program in this cool cross-cultural opportunity.

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Globalize DC Joins the Blue Star of Life at the Kennedy Center

On Tuesday, October 31, eight students from our “Japanese Plus” and “Japan in DC” programs represented DC youth in a very special “Blue Star of Life” Ceremony at the Kennedy Center, organized to commemorate President John F. Kennedy’s 100th birthday and to promote world peace and environment conservation. “The Blue Star of Life” is a large blue and white globe-shaped porcelain vase, designed and created by Japanese artist Yasuhiko Shirakata. The original “Blue Star of Life” vase has been on display at the European Headquarters at the United Nations in Geneva since 1995. In 2015, the Organizing Committee of the “Blue Star of Life” donated a vase to the Kennedy Center, representing the long-standing friendship between the US and Japan. It is currently on display outside the Terrace Theater.

Globalize DC was honored and thrilled to be invited to identify DCPS and DC charter high school students involved in our Japan programs to take part in the October 31 event. Their Japanese counterparts represented different Japanese universities and one high school. The day began with an official ceremony held in the Terrace Theater Lobby. Chidera Obiwuma, from Banneker Academic High School, served as co-emcee. Jeffrey Jenkins, from Dunbar Senior High School, gave a speech on behalf of our DC students. Pascale Shears (Washington Latin PCS) read a message from former Ambassador to Japan Caroline Kennedy, Jonah Nguyen-Conyers (DC International) read a message from the Director of the Peace Corps, and Tara Martin (Banneker) offered a toast at the reception that followed the formal program. Other Japanese Plus/Japan in DC students in attendance were Jazmin Angel-Guzman (Banneker), Maria Garcia (McKinley), and Bryson Torgovitsky (Washington Latin). All students – DC and Japanese – participated in dropping pebbles in the vase, symbolizing the collective will of a new generation of Japanese and DC students to work for peace and environmental conservation.

Following the official morning program and lunch at the Kennedy Center, all students and chaperones traveled to the Japanese Ambassador’s Residence for a special tour, and then moved to the Embassy of Japan for student discussions on topics selected by the students themselves. In small groups they addressed Gender, Education, Environment, and Technology, and shared their ideas with the larger group. This was followed by an opportunity for the Japanese students to share information with our DC students about their lives as university students, their majors, and career goals. The long day ended with dinner at Tony Cheng’s Restaurant in Chinatown. This was a very rewarding, provocative, and intellectually stimulating experience for our DC group.

And our students were treated to one more surprise – their names were imprinted on a new map created by “Blue Stars of Life.”  See?

Blue Star of Life Map.
To read some of our student blogs on their “The Blue Star of Life” experience, click here and here and here.

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