As a nonprofit educational and cultural organization, USJETAA promotes grassroots friendship and understanding between the U.S. and Japan through the personal and professional experiences of over 35,000 Americans who have participated on the JET Programme since its inception in 1987. USJETAA was created through an initiative developed by the United States Bridging Foundation in 2013 and funded by The Japan Foundation Center for Global Partnership with support from all 19 JETAA chapters around the U.S. The impetus for its creation was in response to a growing recognition by the binational committee, CULCON, of the impact JET alumni have as individuals and as a group on U.S.-Japan relations. In CULCON’s 25th Joint Plenary Meeting Statement on April 10, 2012, under the section of Grassroots Exchange, they asked governments, academia, non-profits and private sectors to, “Support JETAA efforts to build its infrastructure and promote improved English language learning in Japan and cross-cultural activities.”
After this recommendation came out, CULON wanted to find a way to support the JET alumni associations (JETAA) in the United States to strengthen the alumni network. To support this recommendation, they allocated some funding for the JETAA chapters. Though the 19 JETAA chapters have a long and important history of more than 30 years, as a grassroots and completely volunteer-run community no chapter was able to take advantage of the funding. Since the funding could not be utilized, this inspired a project to examine the barriers in place to accept available funding and whether additional support at the national level would be beneficial to the alumni community.
Led by Paige Cottingham-Streater (Mie, 1988-89), Executive Director of the Japan-U.S. Friendship Commission (JUSFC) and Executive Director of the U.S.-Japan Bridging Foundation (USJBF), USJBF launched the JETAA Initiative and sought feedback from the JETAA community in the United States. The initiative was led by Cottingham-Streater and Laurel Lukaszewski (Kagoshima, 1990-1992) and consulted with the JETAA community over several years via community outreach, surveys, and the creation of the JETAA USA working group. The working group was made up of the three JETAA USA Country Representatives, JETAA chapter leaders, and other stakeholders in the JETAA community, including representatives from CLAIR (the organization that facilitates the JET Program along with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs). The Country Representatives of USJETAA’s sister organization, JETAA USA guide the JETAA chapters and provide vital support for the chapter leadership. However, those positions are also uncompensated and limited by the constraints placed on volunteers’ time. The working group determined that an umbrella organization with employees and funding could support the JETAA volunteers, boosting their capacity and providing funding for programs beneficial to JETs and the U.S-Japan relationship. USJETAA was incorporated as a national nonprofit organization in 2015.
Under the leadership of Executive Director Laurel Lukaszewski and the founding board of directors, USJETAA put down roots and launched programs to provide assistance to JETAA chapters and reach current JETs. USJETAA was positioned to support chapters, connect with funders, disburse JETAA grants, support chapters in various ways, and support the JET alumni unaffiliated with regional chapters. To provide support for the leadership of JETAA chapters, USJETAA established the Leadership Program which sends USJETAA representatives to visit JETAA chapters to workshop their goals; a webinar series to address topics relevant to chapter leaders; and, a grant partnership with the Sasakawa Peace Foundation USA to provide grants to JETAA chapters for community projects. To help current JETs in internationalization and English teaching efforts, a partnership with the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo was set up to provide microgrants (grants of small amounts of funding) to current American JETs. These initial programs grew into the diverse programs that currently support JETAA chapters and JET alumni. The full list of USJETAA’s current programs are available here.
Purposes of USJETAA
- Serve as a resource for JET alumni, JETAA chapters nationwide, and potential JET participants.
- Support the network of JETAA chapters in programming, membership recruitment, chapter management, leadership, professional development, and fundraising.
- Collaborate with JETAA USA on national initiatives to strengthen the JETAA chapter leadership.
- Facilitate collaboration and information sharing among JETAA chapters.
- Serve as a national clearinghouse for information on chapters, careers, educational opportunities, and U.S.-Japan relations.
- Serve as a point of contact for organizations interested in partnering with JETAA chapters.
- Provide membership services for individual JET alumni not associated with a JETAA chapter.
- Support the JET Programme and the JET community as appropriate.
- Undertake national charitable initiatives.
- Promote cross-cultural understanding between Japan and the United States, and support the U.S.-Japan relationship.
About the JET Alumni Network
Nearly 40,000 Americans are alumni of the JET Programme and it’s predecessor program, the Monbusho English Fellowship Program, and there are more than 72,000 JET alumni worldwide. Since its inception in 1987, JETs have lived and worked in every prefecture throughout Japan, teaching English and promoting mutual understanding and friendship between the U.S. and their host communities. There are 19 individual chapters across the country offering programs and events for alumni, their families, and their communities. In addition to the services provided by USJETAA, the chapters are supported by three annually elected Country Representatives that make up our sister organization JETAA USA, the volunteer body that represents the USA with JETAA International. To find a JETAA chapter near you, please visit our Chapter page here.
JET alumni work in fields as diverse as journalism, the arts, education, international affairs, engineering and business. Many are leaders in their fields. Becoming a member of USJETAA connects you to a vast network of JET alumni and JETAA chapters throughout the United States.
USJETAA & JETAA USA
USJETAA is grateful for the support from our sister organization JETAA USA! USJETAA was created by a national initiative supported by JETAA USA. Our two organizations work together to support the JETAA network. Our missions are similar and complementary, each playing a role that the other cannot to collectively strengthen and uplift the JETAA network in the U.S.
- 501c3 non-profit organization
- Can apply for grants and accept donations
- Has paid staff including full time Executive Director
- Governed by a Board of Directors
- Independent from the Japanese government (note: some funding does come from Japanese governmental institutions)
- Supports individual alumni, JETAA chapter leaders, and current JETs though regular programs
- JET alumni can register as members of USJETAA to join the alumni directory
- Three country representatives that serve the 19 JETAA chapters in the U.S.
- Dedicated volunteers elected annually by the U.S. JETAA chapters
- Guided by a Board of Advisors
- Represents the U.S. internationally with JETAA International
- Fully funded by the Japanese government (CLAIR)
- Cannot apply for grants and accept donations
- Primarily supports U.S. JETAA chapter leaders
- Helps organize the JETAA USA National Conference for JETAA chapter leaders