Clarkston schools celebrate unity with sister school

By Wendi Reardon Price
Staff Writer
After a week, Clarkston High School students and their teacher, Faye Valtadoros, said goodbye to their visitors from their sister school, Chiba Higashi in Japan.
Before they left, Clarkston and Chiba Higashi had a 20th anniversary celebration on March 19 which included learning and experiencing some of the Japanese culture which included learning how to make origami, learning and playing Japanese games, having names written in Kanji and enjoying a green tea.
Valtadoros shared she was surprised with the turnout.
“It’s hard to know how many people would show up, but I was very happy with the amount of people who came and enjoyed all the tables and talking to the Japanese students,” she said. “This is a unique program. I have not heard of any other exchange program where students come and give presentations on Japanese culture/life in English. When we go to Japan, my students prepare and give presentations on American life/culture in Japan to Chiba Higashi students. Many times, if a student is hosted by someone who is going to Japan, they will host them. My students make lifelong friends through this exchange program. This is truly an amazing exchange.”
Japanese teacher Hiro Asano added it wasn’t just a celebration for the one day.
“It’s for our future visits,” Asano said. “This needs to continue. It’s important to not just to the two schools, it’s important to the community as well as Japan and America.”
When Valtadoros started teaching with Clarkston Community Schools in 2006, she didn’t know they had an exchange program.
“One day I received an email from a teacher in Japan, explaining the program to me and asking if I’d like to continue,” she shared. “I had no idea what to expect, but I immediately told them ‘of course.’ At that time, they only sent over ten students. After 5-6 years, I suggested increasing the number to 12, then 14, to now where we invite 16 students and two teachers to come to Clarkston.”
Valtadoros added she really appreciates the exchange program, how it’s grown and how the students enjoy the week when the students from Chiba Higashi are here.
“We had a five year gap, so most of my students had no idea what it would be like,” Valtadoros said. “This week was full of excitement and pictures and communicating with a teenager who lives halfway around the world. I’ll be heading to Japan with 17 students this summer, we look forward to reuniting with our friends.”

Mitsui Akito teaches how to play Japanese games. Photo: Wendi Reardon Price

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