On Wednesday, January 10th, Sand Lake Elementary School hosted a celebration of its friendship with Chitose Elementary School. Sand Lake Elementary School is home to Alaska’s Japanese Language Immersion Program, which began in 1989. Sand Lake has been partnered with Chitose Elementary School for 26 years. In addition to students from Chitose Elementary School, students from five other elementary schools in Chitose came to Alaska.
A total of 32 students from Chitose visited Anchorage for a week as part of a cultural exchange program. Sand Lake Elementary School students will in turn visit Chitose in June 2018.
Many dignitaries and school officials from both sides attended the ceremony, including Mayor of Anchorage Ethan Berkowitz, Anchorage School District Superintendent Deena Bishop, Consul and Mrs. Masatoshi Sato, and Principal of Chitose Elementary School Yoshitaka Komaba.
Mayor Berkowitz emphasized the relationship between Anchorage and Chitose, noting that next year will be the 50th anniversary of the sister cities. Mayor Berkowitz also stated that these students represent the new face of the partnership. Alaska State House Member Jason Grenn mentioned that although it is cold outside, Alaskans have a warm heart, and that he hopes Alaskans’ friendship and kindness helped ease the fear the students might have about traveling so far.
ASD Superintendent Deena Bishop and Sand Lake Elementary Principal Linson Thompson both thanked Chitose Elementary Schools for their continued support of the exchange program and hoped it would continue, as well as emphasized the importance of the Japanese Immersion Program at Sand Lake Elementary.
Mr. Komaba told the students of Sand Lake Elementary about Hokkaido, Japan’s northernmost island, which is famous for its nature just like Alaska. Mr. Komaba expressed hope that students from Chitose and Sand Lake Elementary would become friends quickly. A Chitose Elementary School representative also gave a speech, where she emphasized the students hoping to learn and become friends with Sand Lake students, and that they would like to continue their friendships even when they return home.
The celebration also included a reading from the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, as well as a performance by the Sand Lake Elementary choir. The ceremony concluded with a dance performance of “Yosakoi Soran”, a festive dance performed in Hokkaido, by the Chitose exchange students.