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Mililani Student To JET Off On Cultural Program

Taylor-Anne Kim

Mililani junior Taylor-Anne Kim and her two pals, Hibachi and Cynders. PHOTO FROM TAYLOR-ANNE KIM.

Taylor-Anne Kim has always wanted to visit Japan. She will soon get her chance.

A junior at Mililani High School, Kim has been selected to visit the island nation as a representative of the JET (Japan Exchange and Teaching) Memorial Invitational program. Kim is the only Hawaii resident among the 32 students who were chosen from the nationwide contest.

“There are only 32 people chosen, and I don’t know how many people applied, but this is a large nation, and I can only imagine how competitive it could be,” said Kim.

The JET Memorial Invitation Program provides high school students with the opportunity to visit the Tohoku region of Japan and to participate in exchanges with Japanese students.

While there, the students will get to witness the recovery of the region following the 2011 earthquake and tsunami, and act as symbolic bridges to enhance goodwill between the U.S. and Japan.

A member of the Japanese National Honor Society at Mililani High School, Kim applied to the program for just that reason.

“I am looking forward to meeting the people in the Tohoku region that were affected by the tsunami and earthquake, and I think it would be really cool to meet them and talk about their experiences, what they are doing now and maybe doing whatever we can to help.”

While in Japan, the JET students also will participate in Japanese language classes at Japan Foundation Japanese Language Institute Kansai. They also will be able to experience life in Japan firsthand during a weekend home stay.

Mililani High School has had considerable success getting students into the JET program. Kim is the third Trojan in the last four years to be chosen. Corey Zukeran, a Japanese language teacher at the school, said the students’ interest in overall academics is responsible for getting so many into the JET program.

“The students here are very eager to learn, not only in Japanese, but academically, they are very motivated. I’m not sure it’s just the Japanese language ability that’s getting them selected. In the past we’ve had some very excellent students who got accepted; I think it’s the culture of academics here that produces great students.”

Kim is one of those academic stars. She has a 4.1 GPA and is active in school activities. Plus, she’s not afraid of hard work,
Zukeran said.

“She has great interest and she pushes herself, not just about the things I teach in class, but she takes it upon herself to learn on her own.”

To be selected — only one student per school can be recommended — students must have an overall GPA of 3.0 or be an active JNHS member. They also must pass an online exam followed by an interview in both English and Japanese. The program also honors two former JET participants who were killed in the 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

“Having visited some of those areas, it will be great for them to see how people are doing,” said Zukeran. “We had a lot of media coverage after the event. But here we are, four years later, and we don’t get to see how much is left to do.”

Kim flies out July 5 for a three-week stay. After returning to Mililani, she will give a fall presentation to her AP Japanese class and another for the honor society, Zukeran hopes.

“There will be more awareness, and the students can make a connection with a student who actually
went and hopefully that will drive interest in later years,” he said.

As for Kim, she hopes to reach more than fellow students.

“The hope is to build relationships between the U.S. and Japan so that when natural disasters happen we’ll be there for each other and to help each other out,” said the honor student.