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Trip to Japan enriches Pontiac students

BY XAVIER HERSHOVITZ
OU News Bureau

Eleven middle schoolers from Pontiac were sent halfway around the world and immersed in the culture of another country.

Five students from Pontiac Middle School and six from the International Technology Academy in Pontiac traveled to Kusatsu, Japan, this fall.

The 13-year-olds lived with host families and attended school, gaining a real immersive experience in the country. They began to feel a part of these host families.

“When we left each family, it was an emotional time.  Our families were crying, we were crying,” Jasmine Hensler, an eighth-grader at Pontiac Middle School, said. “They just treated us so good.”

When the students were not with their host families, they were at school or visiting places in Kusatsu.

The people they encountered in Japan were just as much fascinated with them.

“They liked to touch our hair a lot,” Hensler said.

Communicating was the students’ biggest issue. They say Google Translate saved them often.

The full experience started long before they even stepped on a plane.

“I knew we had to acclimate our ambassadors long before they left,” Pontiac School Board President Brenda Carter said. “We did everything we humanly, possibly could to get them ready for what they would experience when they got off that plane.”

She says teaching them the culture was an important part to make sure the trip would be a success.

“I don’t talk as much as I used to,” said Kaden Hamilton, an eighth-grader at Pontiac Middle School. “It changed me a lot.”

The students noticed the humbleness and kindness of the Japanese people, but also their cleanliness.

“There is just no litter there,” Hensler said.

Carter added, “They will hold on to garbage all day if they have to.”

Getting the students there was not simple. No money from the school district’s budget was allowed for the trip. Carter says they created a committee full of teachers and community members to organize the trip. In total, it costed about $50,000, and raising it was a daunting task.

“We really reached out to the community, and the community came through in a major way,” Carter said.

They received donations from many community members and businesses to help get the students to Japan.  The students had no-out-of-pocket costs except for personal needs.

The exchange does not end there, according to Carter. Pontiac will host six students from Japan next year.

 

 

 

 

 

Short URL: http://www.ounewsbureau.com/?p=12094

Posted by on Dec 14 2017. Filed under Oakland County. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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