Community News: Support our Sister-City Student Exchange with VCSC - THCOC
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Community News: Support our Sister-City Student Exchange with VCSC

Since 1962, Terre Haute, Indiana, and Tajimi, Japan, have been sister cities. This relationship began when the president of the Ceramic Workers Union in Japan, part of a 1961 tour group in the U.S., discovered in Terre Haute a city that reminded him of his native Tajimi. In later discussions, and through the encouragement of the U.S. State Department, the American Municipal Association and other organizations, the sister city idea grew. Both cities formalized the arrangement in 1962, based upon similar population size, hard-working cultures, a heavy emphasis on manufacturing, and their reputation as river cities.

The goal of the sister city relationship has been to develop new friendships, to broaden horizons, as well as to learn and to return with new ideas. What began as an exchange of Jaycees, Chamber of Commerce members, and government officials widened over the decades.

Officials have found it is important to keep a sister city relationship strong when working to attract Japanese companies to the Terre Haute community. In Japan, commitment and dedication to one relationship – in this case, the sister-city relationship – can open the door to contacts with businesses.

In recent years, for example, Terre Haute officials and business people visited industries in Japan, and a group of healthcare officials came to Terre Haute and were hosted for several days while they learned more about our healthcare system. Larry Ingraham, president of Ingraham & Associates, Inc., has been a frequent visitor to Japan and has worked with the Terre Haute EDC. His company’s goal is “Bridging Asian & U.S. Business”. Mr. Ingraham said, “Spanning more than 50 years, the Terre Haute – Tajimi, Japan Sister-City relationship provides a wonderful window of educational, cultural and business opportunities to the citizens of both cities.”
Friendships. Broadening horizons. Learning. Beyond the business aspects, in the Sister City relationship these goals have had their greatest – and
brightest – expression in the exchange between Vigo County and Tajimi school corporation students. It creates exposure to a new culture, language, art and tradition. Students learn to see things from a different perspective, forging bonds of friendship and becoming citizens of the world.

In addition, imagine the Banks of the Wabash Chorus singing before a cheering packed house at the Tajimi Cultural Center – they did. Imagine the ISU Brass Ensemble helping celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Sister City relationship by performing in the Tajimi Cultural Center and in Tajimi schools, and jamming with local musicians – they did. In return, Tajimi put Terre Haute in the artistic spotlight, drawing visitors from across the United States with an exhibit of rare and beautiful kimonos and a lecture by Tajimi resident Juichi Iida, whose family kimono business stretches back generations.

Returning to the student exchange, in 1988, students from Woodrow Wilson traveled to Tajimi in the first such exchange. That was followed by a visit from Tajimi students. Many exchanges have followed since, with the last in 2014 for Terre Haute students, and 2016 for Tajimi students. Terre Haute has sent student groups ranging in size from six to 20.

Currently, Vigo County School Corp. is planning to send a group of students to Tajimi in the spring of 2019. Many students have expressed interest. The
trip will consist of a week of staying with families in Tajimi, learning about Japanese culture and visiting local sites, then traveling elsewhere in Japan for historical and cultural enrichment. To help some students who may not be able to afford the full amount, interested businesses and individuals are being asked to help sponsor students. The exchange will enrich the lives of the students who go and better equip them for their future endeavors, and enrich the lives of our community when Terre Haute hosts Tajimi students next year.

The deadline for students to register is Dec. 1, 2018. VCSC students grades 8 to 12 are eligible. For the travel agency to commit its resources to this trip, six students need to sign up. The all-inclusive cost is $5,000 for students, which may vary slightly according to plane flight costs the date of sign-up. Please help make students’ dreams come true. Become a contributor to the Sister City relationship. And help our young people become citizens of the world with contacts overseas. Mr. Ingraham, quoted earlier, said, “Won’t you please consider sponsoring a Terre Haute student to go to Tajimi next summer to learn and grow and benefit both our communities? Thank you very much!”

For information about sponsorship arrangements, or to inquire about the trip for a potential student participant your business may wish to sponsor, please contact Robin Smith, Terre Haute North High School principal, at 812 462-4312 or robin.smith@vigoschools.org; or Christi Fenton, VCSC executive director of elementary education, at 812 462-4011 or caf@vigoschools.org.

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