By Andrew Cluley, photos by Annette Ferguson
Ann Arbor’s business community is honoring a long running exchange program that brings together middle school age students from Ann Arbor and Hikone, Japan. The Ann Arbor Ypsilanti Regional Chamber awarded the Hikone-Ann Arbor Public Schools Exchange Program with an Exemplary Educational Endeavors, or E-3 Award.
Bank of Ann Arbor’s David Norton says the program meets many of the criteria that are considered for the E-3 Awards. Norton serves on the Ann Arbor Ypsilanti Regional Chamber’s E-3 Awards Committee. He says some of the things the committee looks for are programs that provide enhanced educational experiences for students inside and outside of the classroom, prepare students to enter the workforce and develop lifelong learning skills, and continue to improve the quality of Washtenaw community schools.
Scarlett Middle School teacher Ian Shephard is the Project Director for the Hikone Exchange Program. “It’s really fantastic to see members of our community, but particularly the chamber and the business community want to support a program like this for the benefit of our students,” Shephard says.
Norton says the exchange has a lifelong impact on students. “It’s a program that these kids are going to do, it’s something they’re going to remember for the rest of their lives, and in talking to Ian earlier, these kids keep in touch with the Japanese kids throughout their lifetime, and I think it’s something they will never forget,” Norton says.
Norton goes on to say the program helps prepare students to enter the workforce. “Ann Arbor is a cultural place, there are cultures from all over the world in Ann arbor, so I think it’s important that the kids get to know different cultures and get to know different ways of doing things,” Norton says. “That’s important for the business community also because we all need to learn from other areas and how other people do things.”
Shephard agrees that the exchange fits well with Ann Arbor Public Schools efforts to prepare students for the global world of the 21st century. “When I was in middle school we weren’t necessarily teaching about a globalized society,” Shephard says. “Of course that’s really the main thing that we’re trying to teach a lot of our students in social studies, business, economics, technology, and here we have this program that really supports a global community and an understanding of what the benefits of a globalized society can be, especially for young people, and so for their recognition, we are truly grateful.”
Shephard says the financial award that comes with winning an E-3 will go to help offset costs for students going to Japan, support training that takes place before the visit, and pays to help welcome the next delegation from Hikone that comes to Ann Arbor.
Other finalists for an E-3 Award from AAPS include, a water bottle holder project from Burns Park Elementary, Common Sense Media-Digital Citizenship program at Clague Middle School, the jazz program at Community High School, the engineering program at Huron High School, Lakewood Elementary School’s Homework Club, and Skyline High School’s conflict resolution group.