Japanese Pop Comes to CHEC

Kana Uemura Event-12

Ka-na performs.

On Wednesday, October 18, 2018 the students of Columbia Heights Education Campus (CHEC) received a very special treat, courtesy of the Embassy of Japan. Ka-na (Kana Uemura), a New York City-based Japanese singer-songwriter, visited the school in recognition of the upcoming launch of CHEC’s new Japanese language program. The event was hosted by CHEC principal Maria Tukeva, and was attended by about 50 enthusiastic high school students, many of whom plan to enroll in one of the new Japanese classes scheduled to begin in January 2019.

The Deputy Chief of Mission at the Embassy, Mr Kazutoshi Aikawa, introduced Ka-na, and also used the occasion to present a blown-up check to Principal Tukeva, representing a salary assistance grant to CHEC from the Japan Foundation in support of its new Japanese language program. Mr. Aikawa presented a second check from the Japan Foundation to Sally Schwartz for continued support of Globalize DC’s afterschool Japanese Plus program.

CHEC students were mesmerized and charmed by Ka-na’s musical performance – both vocals and guitar – held in the high school Library. In 2010, Ka-Na became a national star in Japan with her acoustic ballad, “Toire no Kamisama” or “Goddess of the Bathroom,” a heartfelt and moving song about her memories of her grandmother, which she sang during her afternoon performance. Her repertoire also included her new song, “Happiness,” other Japanese songs, and even a Michael Jackson cover.  At the conclusion of her singing, Ka-na warmly answered questions, took photos, and signed autographs with the students. It was a wonderful afternoon. The students can’t wait for Japanese classes to begin!

Columbia Heights Education Campus has hosted Globalize DC’s afterschool Japanese Plus program since fall 2016. Last school year, with an initial grant from the Japan Foundation-Los Angeles, Globalize DC offered a single Japanese I course to CHEC students during the school day. The class quickly reached maximum capacity, and led to CHEC’s decision to build its own Japanese language program, the first of its kind in a DC public school. Globalize DC will continue to work with CHEC as a community partner to nurture and help build community support for a strong Japanese language program that will benefit our city’s young people.

We thank the Embassy of Japan for their ongoing encouragement and support.

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Our SY2018-19 Japanese Plus Program Launches!

We’re thrilled to announce that our SY2018-19 Japanese Plus afterschool program launched on Saturday, September 29. Since then, our new DCPS and DC public charter high school students have been meeting twice a week (Wednesdays 4:30-6:30 pm and Saturdays 9:00 am-12 pm) at Columbia Heights Education Campus to pursue their avid interest in Japanese language and culture.

Japanese Plus is a citywide afterschool Japanese language, culture, and career exposure program open at no cost to DC public school students. Globalize DC created this program to address the lack of Japanese language programs in DC public schools

Twenty (20) students were selected for this year’s program through a citywide application process. We have ended up with a great group – dynamic, dedicated, curious, friendly, and a lot of fun! They represent ten different high schools from both DCPS and the charter sector – Banneker, BASIS DC, Capital City, DC International, Ellington, McKinley, Phelps, Washington Latin, School Without Walls, and Wilson.

You can learn more about each of our Japanese Plus students here.

We also encourage you to follow our Student Blog to learn about the Japanese Plus experience through the eyes of our students.

Special thanks again to the United-States Japan Foundation and Japan Foundation-Los Angeles for their generous financial support of this year’s Japanese Plus program. We could not offer this life-changing opportunity without you.

Application Period Opens for SY2018-19 Japanese Plus Program

We are thrilled to announce that, thanks to another generous grant from the United States-Japan Foundation, Globalize DC will again offer its Japanese Plus program during the 2018-19 school year. Japanese Plus is a free afterschool Japanese language, culture, and career exposure program, open to DCPS and DC charter high school students.

You can learn about the program on this Globalize DC: Japan website here and through our student blog.

Globalize DC will select up to 25 new students. The program will meet from September 2018 through May 2019, twice a week – Wednesdays after school (4:30-6:30 pm) and Saturday mornings (9 am-12 noon), plus additional meetings. Meetings will be held at Columbia Heights Education Campus. Students who successfully complete the program may be able to earn high school credit towards graduation.

To be eligible, students must be DC residents attending either a DCPS or DC charter high school. Preference will be for 10th and 11th graders, although freshmen and seniors are also welcome to apply. We recommend students have a 2.5 GPA or above, though we do allow for some flexibility. Keep in mind that Japanese Plus will be like taking an extra class! We are seeking students who have both the interest and the high level of commitment to fulfill the requirements of this program.

To apply, complete the Online Japanese Plus Application Form at https://goo.gl/forms/QXXRhtLCvrUnfzc53.

Applications will be reviewed as they are received; face-to-face interviews will be required. Final selections will be made in late August-early September 2018.

Please feel free to contact Sally at sally@globalizedc.org or 202-251-1692 if you have any questions.

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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An Evening of Tap and Koto at the Kennedy Center

On October 18, at the Kennedy Center’s generous invitation, students from our Japanese Plus and Japan in DC programs had the opportunity to experience a unique cultural event, called “Japanese Connections.” The program featured two ground-breaking Japanese artists. Kazunori Kumagai, a tap dancer, performed in collaboration with a jazz trio — Masa Shimizu (guitar), Samuel Torres (percussion), and special guest, Alex Blake (bass). Then virtuoso musician, Yumi Kurosawa, played the traditional koto with hip hop dancer and Dancing with the Stars contestant, Virgil Gadson. The performance took place in the Kennedy Center’s renovated Terrace Theater, and was a tribute to the government and people of Japan, who supported the original opening of the space. The impressive program demonstrated the power of artistic collaboration across cultures – and left our students amazed, emotionally moved, and motivated to learn more! For many of our students, this was their first visit to the Kennedy Center.

Even more exciting, before the performance, our students were treated to a special discussion with Kazunori Kumagai, who shared his inspirational life story and answered questions about his career pathway. He gave us a whole new way of understanding the art of tap dancing. Then the students heard from Reiko Sudo, a renowned Japanese textile artist responsible for the beautiful art installation, “Fantasy in Japan Blue,” on display at the Kennedy Center (October 3-November 12, 2017).

Read our student writing here, here, here, and more in our Student Blog.

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