Pen Pal Program
Our newest Board Member, Forest Borie, a teacher at Longfellow Middle School, is very interested in setting up a Pen Pal program between Berkeley 7th grade students and similar-aged Sakai students. His idea is for students to exchange letters containing drawings/stories about everyday life to help promote understanding and friendships, and to practice language skills. We are currently looking for an equivalent to a "Forest Borie" in Sakai who would be interested in starting such a program.
We are working all our connections to get this pen pal program started.
Kevin O'Donnell, from the Japanese Consulate in SF, introduced us to Yuriko Akeyama, a student at Cal majoring in Political Science (International Relations) and Economics, who is fluent in Japanese and English and is interested in using more formal Japanese. She will be helping with translations and fostering connections. Our board members, Atsuko Morse and possibly Noriko Nishizawa and Jay Sordean, will be helping us with translations as well.
Yasuko Nagai, International Department of the Sakai City Government, established a contact for us with Mr. Akira Akazawa, Secretariat of the Sakai-Berkeley Association. In October, the Sakai-Berkeley Association sponsors a Speech Contest where many junior high students from both public and private schools participate. The Sakai Board of Education holds monthly meetings attended by both public and private junior high school principals and Mr. Akazawa will be attending in June where they will discuss the Speech Contest and the Pen Pal program. Afterwards, Mr. Akazawa will send notices regarding the Pen Pal program to the public and private junior high schools. We hope to hear back from interested schools in July. We are initiating our correspondence with Akazawa-san, who also attended our Annual Dinner!
If we do hear from an interested teacher in July/August, the timing is such that we can start the Pen Pal program in Fall. The Japanese school year resumes in September (after their August break) and ends in March. Berkeley schools start in August and end in June. So the students will have ample time for multiple exchanges. Atsuko and Yuriko will be translating the correspondence between us and Akizawa-san. Atsuko suggested (from her own experiences!) that we contact English or International Language Clubs in the Sakai schools as they could be more focused on an exchange and provide more time for the students to participate. We will be suggesting this to Akazawa-san.
Any funding that Forest might need (minimal) should be coming from Berkeley Unified School District.