Press Releases 2017

One Hundred Participants Selected for “TOMODACHI Summer 2017 SoftBank Leadership Program”
at University of California, Berkeley High School Students Affected by the Great East Japan Earthquake Participate
in a Leadership Program in California

June 9, 2017
U.S.-Japan Council (Japan) TOMODACHI Initiative
SoftBank Group Corp.

The TOMODACHI Initiative* (TOMODACHI) and SoftBank Group Corp. (SoftBank Group) are pleased to announce that 100 Japanese high school participants have been selected to participate in the “TOMODACHI Summer 2017 SoftBank Leadership Program.”

Fully funded by SoftBank Group, this program will send high school students from the disaster-affected prefectures of Iwate, Miyagi, and Fukushima to the University of California, Berkeley from July 21 to August 10, 2017 for an intensive three-week course focused on global leadership development and community service. SoftBank Group will be engaged in the program curriculum and provide all the students with a complimentary iPad for one year, with the aim to help them learn more effectively during the program and contribute to their communities after returning to Japan.

The program is designed to provide participants with a broad cross-cultural perspective through exposure to a different culture. The goal is for the students to utilize what they learn during the program to contribute to the reconstruction and revitalization of Tohoku and their communities. The participants will learn how they can positively impact their local communities through a problem-solving workshop (Y-PLAN “Youth-Plan, Learn, Act, Now!”). In addition, they will deepen their understanding of American culture and society through homestays, volunteer activities, and interactions with American high school students. They will also assess their life goals and attend career seminars hosted by Japanese citizens residing in the United States.

This program began in 2012 and is now in its sixth year, with a total of 700 participants thus far. In the past, participants of this program have applied what they learned through Y-PLAN to benefit their home communities in Japan, including establishing a travel agency to increase tourist visits to the Tohoku region and creating an internet shopping site that delivers local produce. Other projects include the development and distribution of a newspaper to bridge the gap between the inland and coastal communities in Tohoku, connecting local farmers with consumers. After returning from the United States, based on what they have learned through Y-PLAN, many participants have succeeded in implementing their own projects for community service. TOMODACHI and SoftBank Group will provide opportunities for participants to apply the skills and knowledge that they gained in the United States to assist the reconstruction of disaster-affected areas in Japan, while supporting the participants' efforts in making positive contributions to their communities.

Furthermore, to support the students when they are in the United States, six NPO leaders from the three prefectures affected by the disaster have been selected to participate in the program. These NPO leaders will also help the students with their community-building projects after returning to Japan.

Below are comments from students who were selected to participate in this year's program:

  • Morioka City, Iwate Prefecture: Haruka Kumagai

    Ms. Kumagai is exploring ways to connect students with local farmers in order to prevent the decrease in local farms, for example, by creating opportunities for students to support local farmers or providing lectures on community building at schools. Ms. Kumagai says, “After applying to the TOMODACHI program, I became interested in attending universities where I can study both community building and international exchange. I would like to contribute to developing communities, starting from Iwate, Miyagi, and Fukushima and expanding to Japan as a whole, alongside my 100 peers who will join me in this program”.

  • Ishinomaki City, Miyagi Prefecture: Mako Takahashi

    Ms. Takahashi realized that community service can start with small actions, such as her own experience of cheering up people at welfare facilities by drawing pictures on its walls as a volunteer. Due to this experience, she decided to apply to this program in order to learn better ways to help her community. Ms. Takahashi says, “In many cases, people cannot conduct community service activities alone. Therefore, it is necessary to have the abilities and leadership skills to bring people together. I would like to learn the necessary skills for community service, and after I return to Japan, I plan to draw pictures on steel storefront shutters in shopping streets with my high school friends who study art, and transform local streets into places where people feel like taking pictures”.

  • Minamisoma City, Fukushima Prefecture: Daisuke Sakata

    Influenced by his friend who was planning programs for community service, Mr. Sakata decided to apply for this program with the hope to contribute to his local community. Mr. Sakata says, “I would like to challenge myself to consider how much I can do for the community based on everything I learn in the U.S. It is my hope to create an internet shopping site as another way to sell very delicious eggs that my acquaintance sells directly to people”.

[Notes]
  • *
    The TOMODACHI Initiative is a public-private partnership between the U.S.-Japan Council and the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo, with support from the Government of Japan. Born out of support for Japan's recovery from the Great East Japan Earthquake, TOMODACHI invests in the next generation of Japanese and American leaders through educational and cultural exchanges as well as leadership programs. The initiative seeks to foster a “TOMODACHI Generation” of young American and Japanese leaders who are committed to and engaged in strengthening U.S.-Japan relations, appreciate each other's countries and cultures, and possess the global skills and mindsets needed to contribute to and thrive in a more cooperative, prosperous, and secure world. Visit us at www.tomodachi.org.
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