Becoming a Member of Our Community

Becoming a Member of Our Community

by Asako Clark, Japanese Language Teacher & Japan Cultural Program Coordinator

This year, our journey to deepen connections with the Honmoku community has unfolded through a variety of innovative service and exchange programs. Along with our Service Coordinators, Mr. Kyle Quint and Ms. Larrisa Sears, students have been working to enrich their service learning experiences, making them both impactful for our school and beneficial for the community.

Our Grade 6 students ventured beyond the school grounds, engaging in neighborhood clean-ups and visiting local businesses, including restaurants, shops, and the town library, to conduct interviews. These activities were designed to enhance their understanding of our responsibilities as members of the community. Meanwhile, our high school students have formed collaborative partnerships with local organizations, including two senior homes, a Kodomo Shokudo (a children's cafeteria offering affordable, nutritious meals to children in need), and Shin Yamashita Care Plaza (a community center), thereby fostering relationships and understanding through various initiatives.


Grade 4 students welcome Honmoku Elementary School students onto campus for an Origami learning session

The Grade 2 Service Learning group and the Elementary Gardening Club sold their produce at the Shin-Yamashita Care Plaza's farmer's market for the first time off-campus. Additionally, our Grade 4 students hosted peers from Honmoku Elementary School for an Origami learning session, further promoting cultural exchange.

A notable initiative was led by Kae, a Grade 10 student, who launched a stationery supplies drive benefiting children in Japan, Sierra Leone, and Ghana. This effort, which was part of her Personal Project, sought collaboration with local schools in Honmoku. After reaching out, she received encouraging feedback and even presented her project to 25 Japanese students at Yokohama Midorigaoka High School, sparking their interest. This initial interaction led to a reciprocal visit to our school, where students from both schools engaged in vibrant discussions about cultural and educational differences, expressing a unified desire to collaborate further in sports, projects, and cultural activities. This exchange was a transformative experience, highlighting the power of intercultural dialogue and interaction.



Yokohama Midorigaoka High School students visit YIS to discuss how they can collaborate on future projects together

Feedback from our students post-exchange was overwhelmingly positive, with many noting the ease of communication and the breaking down of stereotypes. They valued the new perspectives gained on Japanese culture, especially the emphasis on teamwork in educational settings, mirroring the values taught at YIS. 

"Before the exchange, I thought it would be really difficult to communicate with them and they would be really shy to talk to us. The students are very open and not at all similar to the stereotype. The best thing about the exchange is meeting new people and talking about how our schools differ from each other and learning their hobbies and interests." Jingyi, Grade 10.

"After the exchange program, my understanding of Japanese culture and society deepened significantly. I gained an appreciation towards the emphasis on teamwork in Japanese educational settings. I learned that like international schools, in Japanese academic settings teamwork is also valued greatly. I hope to continue promoting these cultural exchanges and establish collaboration projects between our YIS community and their Japanese school community. We can collaborate on various projects such as service-related, personal project related or sports-related." Kae, Grade 10.

The students enjoyed meeting new people, discussing the similarities and differences between our schools, learning about each other's hobbies and interests, and making new friends. Upon leaving, many exchanged contact information, and name cards, and said goodbye to their new friends.

Looking ahead, we are excited to expand our exchange programs to include even younger learners. Our students' enthusiasm and innovative ideas promise to lead to even more meaningful connections and friendships within the local community in the future.