Japanese Government's Gift Establishes Exchange Program
With their expenses covered by a $1.25-million gift from the Japanese government, 100 American high-school students will spend eight weeks in Japan this summer.
They will live with Japanese families, presumably learn to speak some Japanese, and, most important, see the culture from the point of view of the Japanese, rather than as tourists see it.
The project, the Special Japan-U.S. Exchange Program, is believed to be the only such exchange program that is funded by the host country. The grant, presented to the U.S. Senate last May, will be divided over five years, beginning with this year, according to Robert A. Doyle, marketing manager for Youth for Understanding, the nonprofit student-exchange organization that administers the program.
"It's a political gift in the positive sense of the word," Mr. Doyle said. The organization has administered a similar U.S.-Japan exchange program, in which students pay the costs, since 1958.
The Japanese government made the gift because of its belief that cultural exchange is an important element in fostering mutual understanding and friendship, Prime Minister Zenko Suzuki said when the gift was announced.
The students will learn about Japanese culture and act as informal ambassadors, Mr. Doyle explained. The prospect is one participants anticipate with enthusiasm, he added.
"When you visit another country as a tourist, you see the product of the culture without seeing the culture itself," said Edmund W. Marsh, a junior at DeKalb High School in DeKalb, Ill., who will be one of the exchange students. "It's very similar to looking at a face without knowing what the person is thinking or feeling. I feel that living with a family for eight weeks will enable me to get to know this culture and understand it better. I hope I'll be able to communicate this to others when I get back."
The students, two from each state, are selected through group and individual interviews and are officially appointed by one of their state's senators. They come from communities that differ not only from Japanese communities, but also from each other. Scott J. Johnson, one of the winners from Arizona, is a student at Douglas High School, located in a small town near the Mexican border. "We discovered that he had the kinds of things that would enable him to go to a new culture," said Norman Wilson, a member of the committee that selected the students, and assistant superintendent for curriculum and development with the Peoria (Ariz.) Unified School District.
Janet M. Ribble, Arizona's other ambassador, comes from Phoenix, a large city. Ms. Ribble, however, had corresponded with a Japanese student, and had long been interested in Japanese culture.
The 100 students were chosen from 2,534 applicants, according to Mr. Doyle. Under the program's guidelines, applicants were required to be juniors in high school at the time they applied. In addition, they had to have a 3.5 grade-point average and to have taken at least one year of a foreign language, Mr. Doyle said.
Virtually all of the applicants were highly qualified, according to program officials, and the process of choosing the finalists was difficult. The entire batch of applications was screened first by a committee of volunteers in Washington that included retired Foreign Service Officers, military personnel, and others interested in cultural exchange, according to Mr. Doyle.
From the initial group, 20 semifinalists from each state were chosen. These students were interviewed singly and in groups by statewide selection committees. The committees, composed of educators and other interested people, then chose two students to make the trip and two alternates.
"We were looking for people we thought would make good ambassadors,
have curiosity and want to find out about Japan while being there," said Thomas W. Eglin, dean of students at the Lawrenceville School and a member of the New Jersey selection committee. In addition, he said, the committee looked for students who would "be able to stand on their own two feet."
Both the group and the individual interviews were designed to give committee members a sense of how each student would respond to the challenge of living in a strange culture. The group exercise, Mr. Eglin said, gave them an opportunity to see which students emerged as leaders, and which ones were most sensitive to the others in the group.
"We had to take a good look at their adaptability and their ability to go into a strange culture and be confronted with the possibility of doing things that they might regard as distasteful," Mr. Wilson said, adding that the sensitivity of the Japanese hosts to the students' needs might eliminate that issue.
In addition, noted Galen Hosler, a member of the Illinois state committee and principal of Niles North High School in Skokie, "We wanted individuals who were secure in their own values, especially with respect to American life and American values."
Educators who are involved in the program agree that although the students themselves will probably be the primary beneficiaries, their classmates will also benefit. "There's got to be some impact, to help dispel any misconceptions that others may have," said Mr. Wilson.
"I think it will probably help the Japanese understand us, too," he added. "They'll find out that just because a kid is from Arizona, he doesn't pack guns and ride a horse."
For more information about the Special Japan-U.S. Exchange Program, write to Youth for Understanding, 3501 Newark St., N.W., Washington, D.C. 20016.
Following are the names and schools of the students selected to participate in the program:
Alabama Dianne E. Rist, Virgil E. Grissom High School, Huntsville; Candice L. Whitman, Charles Henderson High School, Troy. Alaska Bridget A. Dahl, Petersburg High School, Petersburg; Carrie A. Stephens, North Pole Senior High School, Fairbanks. Arizona Scott J. Johnson, Douglas High School, Douglas; Janet M. Ribble, Cortez High School, Phoenix. Arkansas Mary N. Ford, Fayetteville High School, Fayetteville; Bennett C. Ratcliff, El Dorado High School, El Dorado. California Julie R. Cripe, Madera High school, Madera; Steven P. Hotelling, Camarillo High School, Camarillo. Colorado Kara L. Arnold, Westminster High School, Westminster; Suzanne M. Kepford, Central High School, Grand Junction. Connecticut Marc P. Mercier, Smith High School, Storrs; Claire J. Okeson, Ledyard High School, Gales Ferry. Delaware Jennifer K. Ruark, Newark High School, Newark; David F. Venarde, Wilmington Friends School, Wilmington. Florida Nancy E. Bittle, Oak Ridge High School, Orlando; Kimberly A. Krichbaum, Hardee County High School, Wauchula. Georgia Warren L. Griffith, Jonesboro High School, Jonesboro; Kevin D. Stringer, Redan High School, Stone Mountain. Hawaii Stanley Y. Kamimoto, Lahainaluna High School, Lahaina; Heather R. Martin, Campbell High School, Ewa Beach. Idaho Scott A. Hunter, Moscow High School, Moscow; J. Dawn Shannon, Caldwell High School, Caldwell. Illinois Michelle Baum, Glenbrook North High School, Northbrook; Edmund W. Marsh, DeKalb High School, DeKalb. Indiana Lora K. Hershberger, Hamilton Southeastern High School, Noblesville; Jennifer Showalter, Riley High School, South Bend. Iowa Mary K. Blanchard, West High School, Coraville; Allyson R. Earley, North Tama County High School, Traer. Kansas Andrew C. Barron, Baldwin High School, Baldwin; Hillary E. Kircher, Shawnee Mission East High School, Shawnee Mission. Kentucky Gene A. Hosey, LaRue County High School, Buffalo; Genie B. Whitesell, Fulton City High School, Fulton. Louisiana Allen P. Dupont, Thibodaux High School, Thibodaux; Johanna L. Fleming, Oak Hill High School, Elmer. Maine Karen E. Andrews, Searsport High School, Belfast; Helen M. Soule, Orono High School, Orono. Maryland Mark E. Halperin, Walt Whitman High School, Bethesda; Ellsworth J. Hughes, Gilman School, Baltimore. Massachusetts Monica L. Biagioli, Northampton High School, Northampton; Michael J. Wishnie, Newton South High School, Waban. Michigan Thomas R. Korecki, Grand Haven High School, Spring Lake; Sheryl L. Stuart, Houghton High School. Houghton. Minnesota Darrell T. Kersting, Waubun High School, Waubun; Ann M. Thompson, Milan High School, Milan. Mississippi Mary N. Gallert, Vicksburg High School, Vicksburg. Cynthia Y. Hardy, Meridian High School, Meridian. Missouri Jennifer M. Bay, Rock Bridge High School, Columbia; W. Helen Vanderbilt, Parkview High School, Springfield. Montana Gina M. Bertolino, Roberts High School, Roberts; Ester M. Stenberg, Sweet Grass County High School, McLeod. Nebraska Peggy P. Chou, Lincoln East High School, Lincoln; John D. Meissner, Sutherland High School, Sutherland. Nevada Keith R. Barth, Boulder City High School, Boulder City; Gail Dorf, Douglas High School, Gardnerville. New Hampshire Abigail M. Prever, Stevens High School, Claremont; Kevin J. Sanborn, Central High School, Manchester. New Jersey Julia H. Flanders, Madison High School, Madison; Denie A. Stormont, Kittatinny Regional High School, Newton. New Mexico Corry D. Ertel, Taos High School, Taos; Kathleen E. Strong, Los Alamos High School, Los Alamos. New York Karen Ramspacher, The Ursiline School, Rye; Stephanie K. Wissinger, Sacred Heart Academy, Garden City Park. North Carolina Richard A. Colven, Kinston High School, Kinston; Anne E. William, Smithfield Selma High School, Smithfield. North Dakota Linda E. Bata, Langdon High School, Langdon; Amy L. Boller, Fargo North High School, Fargo. Ohio Peter K. Kageyama, Firestone High School, Akron; Wendy Wallace, North Central High School, Pioneer. Oklahoma Ginger G. Ratzlaff, Mannford High School, Mannford; James B. Waltermire, Perry High School, Perry. Oregon Bret J. Lizundia, Aloha High School, Portland; Laura A. Snyder, Grant High School, Portland. Pennsylvania Nicole M. Domencic, Greensburg Central Catholic High School, Export; Paul G. Ryan, Abington Heights High School N., Clarks Summit. Rhode Island Linda M. Jackson, Tolman High School, Pawtucket; Lynn A. Marchetti, North Providence High School, North Providence. South Carolina R. Haven Bourque, Chesterfield High School, Ruby; Graham A. Boyd, Spartanburg High School, Spartanburg. South Dakota Clinton A. Highfill, Stevens High School, Rapid City; Rhonda L. Kinney, Mitchell High School, Mitchell. Tennessee Jason P. Hood, Christian Brothers High School, Memphis; Pamela R. Privett, Peabody High School, Humboldt. Texas Sarah L. Eichberg, B.T. Washington High School, Houston; John W. Humphries, Amarillo High School, Amarillo. Utah Annette Lindsay, Taylorsville High School, Salt Lake City; Jeffrey K. Taylor, Richfield High School, Richfield. Vermont Jane E.Astbury, Woodstock Union High School, Woodstock; John P. Gammal, Essex Junction High School, Essex Junction. Virginia Rebecca J. Baer, South Lakes High School, Reston; Adam J. Bogdanove, St. Christopher's High School, Richmond. Washington Steven E. Trautman III, Central Valley High School, Spokane; Lorrie A. Williams, Trout Lake High School, Trout Lake. West Virginia Melisa M. Carnahan, Huntington East High School, Huntington. Sylvia M. Mathews, Hinton High School, Hinton. Wisconsin Liza L. Behrandt, Kettle Moraine High School, Delafield; Dixon R. Gahnz, Lincoln High School, Wisconsin Rapids. Wyoming Everett D. Knapp Jr., Campbell Count High School, Gillette; Ann M. Jones, Torrington High School, Torrington.