President, Pacific Northwest JET Alumni Association
Gunma Prefecture, 2012–2016
The Pacific Northwest JET Alumni Association (PNWJETAA) was thrilled to welcome Executive Director of USJETAA Bahia Simons-Lane (Gunma, 2005-2007) to Seattle in early March. During these early days on the cusp of the pandemic, we had no idea that the world would change so much, or that the Leadership Program would be the last time our council would see each other in person for some time. While paying careful attention to hygiene and personal space, we had a very successful and fruitful weekend — the benefits of which have kept us engaged and inspired even in these times of uncertainty.
PNWJETAA is a fairly active and well-connected chapter, but not without challenges. At 30 years young this year, it has undergone a number of changes and evolutions. Compared to other US chapters, our membership size is somewhere between a tall and a grande coffee (how very Seattle). While we have a lot of community resources and an active core membership, we also face a lot of the same struggles that other chapters have: maintaining strong leadership, engaging alumni outside of core membership, geographic constraints. There has been a long debate over the years as to whether or not we should seek nonprofit status with the IRS. Facing these daunting questions, it felt important for us to start our thirties off right — and who better to get us through it than USJETAA.
On the Friday of Bahia's visit, PNWJETAA held its monthly meeting followed by happy hour in Downtown Seattle. We really appreciated Bahia joining us for a regular meeting — it felt like a natural place for all of us to get our bearings prior to the Leadership Workshop. Happy Hour also brought out a lot of new faces and old friends thanks to the partnership with USJETAA.
On Saturday morning, we got down to business with the workshop along with Bahia and Yoko Yanagimoto of the Consulate-General of Japan in Seattle. USJETAA board member Laurel Lukaszewski (Kagoshima, 1990-1992), a PNW alum herself, was also able to join us virtually. Our council is made up of alumni at varying stages of post-JET life: some have watched the organization grow from its earliest days, others have returned from Japan just months ago. We bring a lot of different perspectives and experiences to the council, and with the structure provided by Bahia and Laurel, we were able to create a solid foundation for us to build upon in the coming years.
I'm so grateful that we could host Bahia and Laurel. Having this productive and meaningful workshop at such a pivotal moment — both in our chapter's history and on a global scale — enabled us to ground into who we are and why we're committed to the JET Program and JETAA. The Leadership Program is a fantastic resource that any JETAA chapter could benefit from, regardless of size or status, short or venti. Whenever we come out on the other side of this (and we will), come visit us in the Pacific Northwest to see just what we mean.
USJETAA's visit to PNWJETAA was funded by CLAIR NY, Japan Local Government Center. This trip occurred in early March, before we knew the reality of the COVID pandemic.