The week of October 23 was more “electric” than normal in the Mason Middle School as 15 students and two adult chaperones from Nagaoka, Japan, were part of the Fort Worth and FWCD community for nine days, October 21-29. For the fourth year in a row, Fort Worth Country Day’s Mason Middle School served as an Ambassador Middle School for Sister Cities of Fort Worth. FWCD families hosted the students and adults from Nagaoka, Japan, for the annual international youth exchange program.
Fort Worth Sister Cities established the Ambassador Middle School program in 1991, partnering with local public and private schools to promote global fluency for educators and students.
Throughout the nine-day visit, FWCD Middle School students learned the value of cultural exchange and were introduced to an enriching life experience as all students, those from Fort Worth and those from Nagaoka, shared their cultural, religious and geographic backgrounds. Positive relationships were built, and the students ultimately forged a bond based on broader perspectives and a deeper understanding of what it means to live in a multicultural society.
Middle School History Teacher Stephen Blan is FWCD’s Fort Worth Sister Cities liaison, serving as the campus sponsor and coordinator for the FWCD delegation. The group from Nagaoka included 11 girls, four boys and two teachers/community members.
Blan is happy to continue the tradition that former History Teacher Tara Forrest began. Forrest had been trying for years to become an Ambassador School with Sister Cities, before the stars aligned in fall 2014. “The benefits for everyone involved are extraordinary and an exchange like this is such a growth opportunity for our students,” Blan noted.
Forrest added: “It makes my heart happy to see this exchange live on at the School that meant so much to me as a teacher.”
One of the goals of the Ambassador Middle School program is to provide Fort Worth students with the leadership skills they need to succeed in today’s connected world. At the same time, educators are given creative teaching tools and exposed to international cultures and educational systems of other countries.
Throughout the school week of the delegation's visit, the Japanese students “shadowed” their FWCD host students, attending classes, participating in cultural activities and enjoying some fun Fort Worth activities with their host families in the afternoons and evenings. On Monday, October 23, the 11 girls also were presented with FWCD jumpers to commemorate their visit. “This gift of a jumper is always a highlight of the girls’ visit,” said John Stephens, Head of Middle School.
The schedule of events included attending all academic classes and extracurricular activities at school; enjoying field trips to the Stockyards and Globe Life Ball Park; cheering on the Falcons at Middle School cross country, field hockey, volleyball and football teams at meets, games and matches; partaking in a “Sayonara Dinner” at First United Methodist Church with host families; enjoying the All-School Homecoming Pep Rally and Homecoming 2017 events on Friday, October 27. Evenings with host families consisted of family meals at home or at local restaurants and trips to the mall for shopping. On Saturday afternoon (October 28), the students and their host families attended the Fall Festival at the Japanese Garden within the Fort Worth Botanic Garden.
While the Nagaoka delegation took part in daily activities and meals with their hosts, they also shared information about their own culture with the School and the broader community. The 15 students presented to their Middle School peers about their home and culture on October 25 during Middle School Assembly. They presented about the Samurai, washi, Japanese customs and manners, Haiku, music, how to play Hanafuda and Karuta, and more. Five of the Japanese students presented to Lower School students during a assembly and one teacher and one student met with the Lower School Common Ground group to discuss Japanese culture.
The takeaway for the FWCD students was monumental. It provided them with an amazing opportunity not only to learn about a culture other than their own, but it also taught them to see their own culture through others’ eyes. “It is so heartening to watch the students—both American and Japanese—learn about a new culture,” Blan said. “I think FWCD students are even more appreciative of Fort Worth now that they have seen it though their guests’ eyes, and I know they are inspired by what they’ve learned about Nagaoka. I hope this exchange continues to create an avenue of dialogue for the students for years to come.”
This year’s FWCD hosts were:
Femi Adedokun ’22
Kate Alexander ’22
Lola Barajas ’23
Kaylee Chisholm ’22
Georgia Ethridge ’23
Jack Fishman ’23
Caroline Grebe ’23
Kate Malonis ’23
Madeleine Milliorn ’22
Alex Nolan ’23
Banner Robinson ’22
Vivian Todora ’23
Jessica Tomasic ’23
Leela Vallurupalli ’22
Hannah Wright ’23