Teen bound for Far East


A Belleville High School freshman will be spending part of the summer in Japan.

Andrea Romero is one of 10 American high school students from the around the U.S. to be accepted into the TOMODACHI Japan Society Junior Fellows Leadership Program, a cultural immersion and learning project.

The students will stay with host families in the Tokyo metropolitan area and learn the basics of the Japanese language while attending local high schools and join in afterschool sports and activities.

They’ll also visit important sites around Japan – ranging from the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park to the Harajuka fashion district – during their stay, July 6 to 27.

Students will also meet with U.S. and American leaders in business, science, technology, humanities and the arts and develop research projects that focus on Japanese social problems, recovery from the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami, teachers’ roles in Japan and the U.S. or create a series of podcasts, videos or articles about their host town.

Upon their return, students will be expected to present their projects to their home schools.

“I am absolutely thrilled to be participating in the Junior Fellows Program,” Andrea said. “It is a true honor to be given this opportunity and to represent not only my town – Belleville – but my country as well. I think it is a great opportunity to learn first-hand and to gain insight into the average life of a teenage Japanese student.”

Andrea’s is BHS’s second entry into the program, following student David Herrera’s participation in 2014. David still maintains contact with his Japanese host family and the other Junior Fellows who went to Japan last summer.

BHS Principal Joseph Pagano said: “Last year, Dave set the standards very high by his outstanding participation in the program. The Japan Society told me that Dave is to be greatly commended for his attentiveness, punctuality and maturity while in Japan. I am sure Andrea will carry the Belleville torch in the same manner.”

Andrea is unsure what project she will pursue in Japan but said she was “intrigued how Japan fuses modern and traditional culture together. I am also captivated by the ancient architectural sites and the beautiful cherry blossom trees.”

For the second year in a row, BHS will host one or two Japanese students in mid-March for two weeks. Those students will share information about their country with Belleville students and undertake a research project about the U.S.

The Junior Fellows Leadership Program is supported by a generous grant from an anonymous family foundation, Wilbur L. Ross Jr., ITO EN (North America), TOMODACHI Initiative, the Norinchukin Foundation and an anonymous individual.

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