USJETAA partnered with Sasakawa Peace Foundation USA (SPFUSA) to provide grants to JETAA Chapters and Subchapters across the United States from fall 2017 – spring 2018. As part of USJETAA’s mission to support the network of JETAA Chapters and alumni across the country, the SPFUSA/USJETAA grant provided a direct avenue for USJETAA to assist chapters in providing programming and outreach for their members and communities.
USJETAA granted six proposals from five JETAA Chapters. The selected proposals were:
Round one grants:
- JETAA Texoma: JET30 – The Past, The Now…and How Your Role is Still Significant ($1,650) – Program date: December 9th, 2017
- JETAA Pacific Northwest: Transitions 2017 – Career Fair ($355) – Program date: October 21, 2017
- JETAA Rocky Mountain: JETAA Career Counseling ($2,000) – Program date: September 5 – January 31, 2018
- JETAA New York: Expanding the Bridge: JETAANY Webinar Series for Professional, Community, and Career Engagement ($1,000) – Program date: October 2017 – January 2018
Round two grants:
- JETAA New York: Building Cultural Bridges: JETAANY’s 30th Anniversary Gala ($2,000) — February 3, 2018
- JETAA Heartland: 40th Anniversary of Independence and Higashimurayama ($1,000) – January 27th, 2018
Round One Grants
Event Name: JETAA Texoma Holiday Bounenkai 2017 and JET 30th Anniversary Celebration
Organizer: JETAA Texoma
Date: December 9, 2017
Location: Izakaya WA (12665 Memorial Dr., Houston, TX 77024)
Number of Attendees: 37
- Kotaro Kashiwai, Assistant Director CLAIR New York
- Bill Weiland, President of the Japan-America Society of Houston
- Glen Gondo, Order of the Rising Sun, Gold Rays, founder of Houston Japan Festival, founder & owner of Gondo Company
- Ai Kawase-Consulate General of Japan- Houston Office Representative
- Alisa Tobin-Consulate General of Japan-Houston Office-JET Program Coordinator
- Timothy Roller-JETAA Texoma President
- Gregory Gaylor-JETAA Texoma Vice President
- Jessica Holloway-JETAA Texoma Treasurer
- Emily Gurvis-JETAA Texoma Houston Representative
- Rochelle Breen-JETAA Texoma Press Officer
JETAA Texoma’s goals for the event was to:
- Remind and inform membership about the chapter, what their current strategies entail, and what 2018 will look like for them
- Provide professional networking opportunities for Japanese-English speaking members and the local/state-wide corporations seeking to hire such individuals
- Allow for a platform to introduce all Japanese/American-adjacent organizations and to their membership, hence providing for an all-inclusive “Japan and Texas”-adjacent event
Their aim was to professionally and socially enrich the lives of JETAA Texoma members by supporting the productive relationships made during their time on the JET Program, along with fostering and promoting enhanced relationships with Japan, Japanese culture, and local communities and organizations in Texas and Oklahoma. In spite of the difficulties faced by the chapter due to the sheer scope and size of Texas and Oklahoma, making it extremely difficult to effectively host events that are available and amenable to the majority of their membership, the event was successful and achieved the following goals:
1. Fostered Community Pride
This event promoted JETAA Texoma and overall community pride by not only celebrating the 30th Anniversary, but also defining and discussing the past 30 years of the JET Program. Additionally, the event addressed the importance of grassroots activities between Japan and the United States.
2. Exchanged Information, Ideas, and Potential Initiatives
Another goal of this event was education, including greater awareness and new knowledge. The event included a mix of professional, cultural, educational, and social landscapes, coupled within a hands-on, experiential environment.
3. Strengthened and Renewed Relationships
Much relationship-building occurred during the planning phase. During this phase, JETAA Texoma formed bonds between public and private organizations, government, and neighborhood groups and made connections between elected officials, staff, volunteers and members. Building these bonds paid off in a successful event. The chapter hopes these benefits will last well beyond this event as people bring and wholly utilize their connections, collective knowledge, and skills to improve the JETAA Texoma community. These connections are the “glue” that holds communities together! By maintaining these connections, JETAA Texoma is in a prime position to support the chapter, the JET Program, and the ongoing relationship between Japan and the United States and continue to grow, thrive, and flourish.
JETAA Pacific Northwest
Event Name: Transitions 2017: Career Event
Organizer: JETAA PNW Transitions Team (Jessica Record and Lynn Miyauchi)
Date: October 21, 2017
Location: Northwest University (5520 108th Ave NE, Kirkland, WA 98033)
Number of Attendees: 22, plus 19 staff
- Levi Davenport the Director of Career Development and Corporate Relations at Northwest University
- Robert Uy, Career Ambassador at Amazon
Transitions 2017: Career Event was organized by the Transitions Team composed of two members, Jessica Record and Lynn Miyauchi. Northwest University donated their space for this event and they held the event on the campus at 5520 108th Ave NE, Kirkland, WA 98033. Registration opened at 8:30AM and there were 22 attendees and 19 staff members. In addition to Sasakawa’s support, Northwest University supplied the venue, Goldenpak donated some food, and Raindogcreations maintained the website. The keynote speaker was Levi Davenport the Director of Career Development and Corporate Relations at Northwest University who spoke on transitioning from one place in your life to the next in “Marketing yourself for occupational success while understanding transition.” The guest speaker was Robert Uy who spoke on the impact going on JET has on the participants and those around them.
The next portion of the day consisted of the attendees breaking up into four panels, which were 40 minutes each. The panel topics were: “Utilizing your Japanese Language Skills,” “Staying Connected to Japan & Expanding Your Network through JETAA & Community Involvement,” “LinkedIn Best Practices & Tips,” and “JET Lag.” The first panel focused on how to use Japanese Language in the work place, or how you can use Japanese in everyday life. The “Staying Connected to Japan & Expanding Your Network through JETAA & Community Involvement” because that panel highlighted how alumni interacted with the local Japanese community in Seattle. The “LinkedIn” panel introduced how you can use LinkedIn with professional relationships. Because of the networks growing popularity it helped prepare returnees for finding work. Finally, “JET Lag” was a personal reflection to help attendees reflect on their time on JET and how they may cope with culture shock or accepting they’re return home.
The day concluded with a networking expo, which included 12 community groups. This allowed attendees to meet different groups in the area affiliated with Japan, as well as meet with some of the local Universities for post-graduation education. During the same time, there was a JET info session with 7 attendees that did not participate in the rest of the day. The event ended at 4:30PM.
After the event, JETAA PNW concluded they want to make some changes. Transitions was created in response to the Financial Crisis of 2008, and now that the market has recovered fewer JET Alumni are attending because many have already found work upon returning. In the future, they want to expand this event for students to learn about opportunities in the local Japanese community, as well as the JET Program. As for the returned JETs, they want to help with their adjustment back to life in America and support them in returning to work in America whether they have found work or not. This year helped JETAA PNW see how they can improve, and expand to better help the JET Alumni and potential JETs in their community.
Transitions Website: http://transitions.pnwjetaa.org
JETAA Rocky Mountain
Event Name: Career Counseling Sessions
Organizer: JETAARM, Adam H. Lisbon, President of the Rocky Mountain JET Alumni chapter
Date: September 2018 – March 2018
Number of Attendees: 33
Facilitator: Emily Frank, Denver Career Catalyst
Funded: 33 career sessions
In the winter of 2017, JETAARM applied for a grant from CLAIR to fund 14 career counseling sessions and successfully held 11. The unfilled sessions were due to the short time frame given to spend out the grant. It was the first known grant the JETAARM applied for from CLAIR. JETAARM took advantage of USJETAA’s funding opportunity to fund an additional 33 sessions. JETAARM was awarded the grant in September 22nd and use the grant funds to support JET Alumni across the United States, not just within the Rocky Mountain Chapter.
The career counseling services were provided by Emily Frank, who is a professional career counselor with over 10 years of professional experience (and JET alumna). She was a full time career counselor at Metro State University but has transitioned to her own private company, Denver Career Catalyst. This site provided a landing page for her services. Alumni then reached out to Emily to book a counseling session. Appointments were 60 minutes long, which includes approximately 30 minutes of prep time and a variable amount of follow up. Those who participate were then encouraged to take a follow up survey. The survey feedback was critical to measuring satisfaction and how to make future improvements.
Results & Feedback
Feedback from participants who followed up was universally positive. Of 33 participants not all took the survey. Of those who responded, 18 responded with being “very satisfied” and 4 responded with “satisfied.” The career counseling sessions met the immediate need to giving JET Alumni participants some guidance on their next appropriate career move. When asked, “Would you recommend other JET Alumni take a career counseling session,” 100% of respondents said “yes.”
Participation by Area
Because this grant funded a service that allows JETs to be reached even in remote areas, JET alumni in many different areas were able to take advantage of the career counseling service.
Types of Career Advice
In general, participants found the career counseling sessions relevant. Out of 84 potential responses, participants replied “very helpful” 48% of the time, and “helpful” 26% of the time.
Participants found skills related to job hunting the most helpful by a significant margin. The only area not to be selected as “very helpful” most of the time was “How to Think about Attending Grad School” and that was only because it didn’t apply to those participants’ needs.
Social Media was by far the most effective means of reaching out to various alumni. Coordinating across chapters is difficult as it is hard to know precisely how much contact they have with their alumni, and how they communicate with them. Newly returned alumni should have the most priority, but also seem to be the least “plugged in” to JETAA chapter media outlets. When trying to promote directly to the newest returnees, there were very few counseling sessions. It was also difficult to get feedback from the initial round of participating “smaller” chapters. When JETAARM transitioned to aggressively promoting career counseling opportunities on Facebook, slots filled up quickly. Ultimately, JETAARM applied for additional funding from CLAIR to allow for 10 more career counseling slots. Those additional slots were full within one day.
When participants gave feedback in a free text response, there were three themes that emerged:
- Participants were really happy and grateful that this service existed.
- JETs were happy it was a fellow JET
- People really wanted to have follow up sessions, especially so they could apply what they learned and follow up with Emily.
JETAA New York
Event Name: Expanding the Bridge: JETAANY Webinar Series for Professional, Community, and Career Engagement
Organizer: JETAA PNW Transitions Team (Jessica Record and Lynn Miyauchi)
Date: October – February (ongoing)
Number of Attendees: 112 registrants (varies by event, see below)
Speakers: See below
Funded: Webinar “Zoom” platform, Webinar Gear
JETAANY hosted a professional development webinar series with a selection of several diverse presentations held monthly. They launched an interactive webinar series featuring speakers in order to focus on achieving their chapter aims of 1) assisting returning JETs with acclimating to life in the US, 2) fostering education and understanding of Japanese culture, and 3) strengthening ties between alumni and the Japanese community. The content of each session was directly tied to these aims and was intended to help alumni and community members polish their personal brand, grow as presenters and leaders, develop new skills, and create ties with the Japanese and JET alumni communities.
In addition, this program has been especially advantageous for the chapter in reaching and serving regularly scheduled workshops to their community regardless of their geographic location. Due to the flexible, online nature of webinars, anyone, anywhere can participate. This has been especially important for JETAANY, as New York is an extremely large and spread out state, and their membership also includes active subchapters in Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and New Jersey. Thus, the webinar series has helped bridge gaps and connect their “remote” members with their speakers, while also giving them skills they can invest into their careers and communities.
The target audience for the webinar events was consistent: alumni in the JETAANY chapter and its sub-chapters, including but not limited to: recent returnees, young professionals, alumni who recently moved cities, and those changing jobs. They also aimed to welcome members from other JET alumni chapters, community partners, and friends of JET.
Their initial goal was to schedule one webinar a month from October 2017 through January 2018, with speakers from JETAANY, the Japanese community, and professional organizations. They began each session with an explanation of the series and grant, an overview of the topic and speaker, an introduction to JETAANY, and a request to submit future topics.
They also ended each event with a Q&A session in the comments / chat section of the webinar platform, a reiteration of information about the series and general contact information, and an invitation to submit top ideas, suggested speakers, or feedback. In general, they tried to host events at times that would be convenient for alumni anywhere in the U.S. (around 2:00 PM, or 7:00 PM), but especially for their chapter and subchapter members.
With the funding received from USJETAA and Sasakawa USA, JETAANY purchased a subscription to an online meeting and webinar platform that included a webinar add-on at a highly discounted non-profit rate. After receiving permission to alter the initial grant amounts and spend more on gear due to the savings on the platform, they conducted extensive research on appropriate gear for successful webinars and live “webcasted” events, eventually purchasing more gear. These additional items helped facilitate successful implementation of their webinars, provided a higher quality product to the chapter members, added professionalism to both the events and JETAANY’s brand (which opens the door to coordination with larger organizations), and created an educational foundation which they will build upon to continue enhancing their programming and empowering their alumni.
Project Execution, Engagement, & Impact on Community
Using the subscription and equipment purchased with the grant, they hosted 6 webinars in 4 short months (October 2017 to January 2018) in addition to their regular programming, and while simultaneously planning their 30th anniversary Gala. They hosted at least one webinar per month, with 3 in January and several others slotted for later in the spring.
During the series, they had 112 webinar registrations and 53 webinar attendees from around the country and world, with an alum in Japan attending one of the events. Beyond engagement with the local JETAANY alumni, they were excited to see that alumni from other chapters (D.C., Northeast, Chicago, Northern California, and Pittsburgh) and the local CLAIR office expressed interest in the series. This demonstrates an interest by the alumni community at large in alternative professional development opportunities that are accessible to all.
The webinar series also provided unique opportunities to engage with the alumni community, as well as work with other organizations. As an example of the former, four alumni planned and lead webinars on topics ranging from following your passion to international work in the government. These alumni sharpened their presentation skills, interacted with alumni they both had and had never met before, and participated with JETAANY in an entirely new way.
JETAANY also worked with external professional organizations. The November webinar was with JaNet (American Dream Japanese Network, Inc./d.b.a. JaNet) on connecting with the Japanese community in NY. Since the first meeting with officers from this impressive, Japanese-community related nonprofit organization, JETAANY had been searching for ways to collaborate with them. The webinar was their first event together. It introduced JaNet to their alumni network, promoted connections with the Japanese community (the main focus of the webinar), and helped simultaneously further the mission of both JETAANY and JaNet. It was a winning situation for everyone, and helped strengthen and grow the connection to JaNet and the Japanese community.
JETAANY also organized three webinars with Ajilon Professional Staffing (one of which was cancelled due to the presenter’s personal emergency) due largely to past coordination and experience with JETAADC and their annual involvement with the company as part of their Professional Development Forum. Ajilon has a menu of topics geared toward young and mid-career professionals. They host similar in-person sessions for Returned Peace Corps Volunteers and other professional organizations in DC, so coordination with the company was easy as they only had to pick a relevant topic from their menu of choices. Ajilon also offers professional staffing services which they promoted as an opportunity for JETs transitioning to a new city or back to the country to forge connections with resources for short-term and transitory employment, without pressure or commitment. Once again, these webinars helped develop the professional skills of attendees, but also strengthened ties with the DC chapter.
In building to these successes, JETAANY did experience some challenges. Any robust SAAS (software as a service) can take time to learn. Though a few officers were already experienced with the chosen webinar platform, it took a few tries before a webinar was successfully recorded. Also, working with various presenters is a strength of the series, but took extra coordination to set up as they needed to determine each speaker’s preferences (i.e. did not want to be recorded, did not have slides/had slides, etc.). Timing was also challenging due to JETAANY’s already full calendar, the holiday season, and the fact that the volunteer-driven board had to avoid conflicts in their full-time jobs to host the sessions that took place during the day. Overall though, the webinars went smoothly.
They also experienced positive engagement with other chapters. Through invitations to other chapters, they were able to engage in positive conversations and brainstorm about joint events. One conversation with JETAA Rocky Mountain led to a discussion about collaboration and resulted in JETAARM opening their career counseling options to JETAANY, then to a wider audience. This was an indirect but valuable resource for all alumni which would not have come about if not for the webinar resource.
In summary, the webinars were successful in not only expanding the reach and accessibility of professional activities, but also in engaging alumni, Japanese community members, and professional organizations. JETAANY is confident that these efforts have lead their alumni to develop to new connections, skills, and involvement or investment in the organization and JET.
JETAANY aims to continue hosting at least one webinar a month in 2018, led by alumni from NYC or sister chapters, Japanese-related community members, and professional organizations. They have already begun talks with an alum from the Pittsburgh subchapter and an alum in North Carolina to give professional development talks. Others that they reached out to in early planning-stages have circled back to engage with them about brainstorming ideas and hosting session in person. They are also actively seeking a new coordinator to focus on or spearhead this continued effort in coordination with the board, which could provide an opportunity for a recently returned JET to take on a leadership role or for other alumni to add to their resume.
Additionally, while they presented on the foundations of what they hoped to achieve through what was then just the idea for this program at the 2017 National Conference (NatCon) in DC (see the chapter representative’s presentation here), the discussion around web-based engagement with other chapters really highlighted an untapped opportunity to engage with web-based platforms to connect with the JETAA communities. JETAANY believes they have presented a platform to work from with this program and hope to continue to collaborate with sister chapters to empower alumni.
Webinar Timeline & Descriptions
The following is an overview of events that hosted during the grant period, or October 2017 – January 2018. Please note the November and December Ajilon events were cancelled because the speaker’s home burned down and so they were unavailable. The February speaker plans were suspended due to the gala and will be added to future dates.
10/25/2017: Networking and Mid-Career Professional Changes
- Description: The first webinar was hosted by Mari at Ajilon and involved basic networking suggestions and techniques before launching into tips about how to engage with a new field or in a new city. The speaker then spent about 20 minutes answering questions from various participants.
- Description: JaNet (American Dream Japanese Network, Inc./d.b.a. JaNet) is a nonprofit organization that, under the slogan “Your network to achieve dreams in America!” supports a network for those living in the United States. This not-for-profit organizations provides professional development and even company tours to the Japanese community in NYC and graciously hosted a webinar introducing their wonderful organization and about connecting to the Japanese professional community.
12/12/2017: So You Wanna Start a Business?
- Description: JET Alumni Lee Uehara and Alex Varney hosted a conversation about starting a business, digital marketing/PR fundamentals, useful (and often free) online tools, and general things to keep in mind when bringing a product or service to life and marketing it. Lee is a serial entrepreneur with a string of businesses under her belt, and Alex provides PR, digital marketing, and event management services at an integrated digital marketing/communications firm. This session was previously presented in-person to about 30 people and brought back due to requests to make it accessible.
- Description: This webinar was hosted by two alumni, both in person and via the web, and provided an introduction to international opportunities with the U.S. government, including Peace Corps, Fulbright, USAID and the U.S. Department of State and included about 20 minutes of Q&A.
- Description: This session taught attendees how to capitalize on their passion and experiences abroad! JETAANY member Alexis Agliano Sanborn spoke about the process of taking ideas and passions from ideas to reality. As an independent researcher, community organizer, and artist, Alexis framed this discussion in the context of her upcoming documentary, Nourishing Japan, which looks at food education and the people that help make it possible.
- Link to video recording
- Description: This session focused on sharpening one’s online presence, led by Ajilon’s DC office, and focused on various platforms and tips for making the most of your profile, enhancing your personal brand, and which tools are appropriate for various kinds of information.
- Link to video recording
Round Two Grants
JETAA New York
Event name: Building Cultural Bridges: Japanese Cultural Presentations at JETAANY’s 30th Anniversary Gala
Date: February 3, 2018, 6 p.m. – 11 p.m. EST
Place: The Dumbo Loft, Brooklyn, NY
Number of Attendees: 130
Speakers: See below
Funded: Taiko performance, Kagami biraki ceremony with masu cups, Setsubun activities
Held on Saturday, February 3rd, the JETAANY Gala celebrated the JET Program’s many years of successful grassroots exchange, its positive impact on U.S.-Japan relations and the significance of future connections. The event welcomed 130 guests that included not only JETAANY alumni, but also representatives from all three of JETAANY’s subchapters (Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, New Jersey), at least six different JETAA chapters, two of three country representatives, CLAIR NY, the office of the Consulate-General of Japan in NY, USJETAA, and the involvement of other individuals and chapters that could not attend by video and message.
Through the generous grant provided by Sasakawa USA and USJETAA, JETAANY was able to include components that highlighted the cultural connections and underpinnings that strengthen relationships; create better understanding of the U.S.-Japan relationship for both JETs, friends of JETs, and the public through publications; and feature speakers to unpack the relevance of the occasion. The primary vehicles for these objectives were a talk on Setsubun given by Reverend Earl Ikeda of the American Buddhist Study Center, a taiko performance by a multicultural student group in residence at Columbia University, and a barrel breaking ceremony which further promoted U.S.-Japan ties with all in attendance. These offerings also attracted high-profile speakers such as Deputy Consul General Masaru Sato, and CLAIR NY Executive Director Wataru Tozawa, as well as JET alumni who have contributed greatly to JETAANY and JET, but who aren’t currently actively engaged. This included George Rose (2nd President of JETAANY), Jim Gannon (Executive Director, JCIE / USA), and many more.
The gala allowed JET alumni and other attendees to reflect on the impact of the JET Program over the last 30 years, strengthen ties and reconnect with JET and their Japanese community contacts, engage in innovative educational and cultural activities, and further promote understanding and friendship between the U.S. and Japan as a whole.
The impetus for hosting this event was to celebrate the JET Program’s 30th anniversary at the chapter level. While this event was seeded by Grant-in-Aid (GiA) funding from CLAIR, due to the high cost of items in New York City, over 75% of the cost of the event covered basic amenities and event needs (e.g., food and venue). Because cost of these budget items alone was over double the original grant, JETAANY truly would not have been able to achieve the goals of bringing alumni and chapters together, discussing and highlighting bilateral relationships, strengthening their networks, and looking at how to continue to support and promote bilateral and cultural exchange in the future, without this assistance. Additionally, this financial support not only enhanced, but truly enabled the chapter’s ability to bring the programming and outreach to their members, communities at large, and the greater public on a wholly new level, and on an entirely volunteer basis.
The following provides a general overview of the event.
The program agenda was accompanied by a detailed run-of-show for the event-planning committee. The MC script involved cultural explanations, and frequently tied back to the greater significance of the different components of the evening. For example, to highlight the intra- and inter-community history and connections with Japan, JETANNY involved CLAIR, the Consulate, and current and founding JETAANY officers to participate in the kagami biraki barrel-breaking ceremony.
6:00 pm Cocktail & Networking Hour
7:00 pm Program Start: MC introductions and Salutations
7:10 pm Taiko Performance
7:25 pm Kagami Biraki (Barrel-Breaking Ceremony with 4 guests of honor)
7:40 pm Kampai & Dinner
8:30 pm Program Start: MC programming and Speakers (including interactive skit)
9:00 pm Awards: Recognition of contributions and speeches
9:25 pm Goodwill Messages: Chapters and individuals that could not make it
9:35 pm Prize Drawing: Connections to local community and enhancing programming
9:55 pm Dancing & Networking
11:00 pm Close
Speakers & Awardees
The MCs and programming committee worked closely with the guests to help develop a program that highlighted the importance of bilateral exchange and discussion, and analyzed its importance. They were able to honor and invite Japanese government officials on a complimentary basis without charging them for the event, helping to ensure participation and elevate the status of the event. For example, when Ambassador Takahashi was not available to join us, the Consulate promptly offered the next ranking official, Deputy Consul General Sato, who attended the event accompanied by Consulate staff overseeing the JET Program.
- Keynote Speaker: The Honorable Masaru Sato, Director, Japan Information Center; Deputy Consul General, Consulate-General of Japan in New York
- Guest Speaker: Mr. Wataru Tozawa, Executive Director, Japan Local Government Center, CLAIR New York
- Guest Speaker: Rev. Earl Ikeda, Resident Minister, New York Buddhist Church
- Guest Speaker: Ms. Wendy Ikemoto, President, JETAANY
During the awards ceremony, each awardee was introduced by two presenters, each of whom also bear significance to the bilateral relationships and wider communities. Both the presenters and award recipients were given one minute to speak, often drawing not only on the significance of their time on the JET Program, but on the significance the alumni association and international community have had on their personal and professional success. These included:
- Exceptional Contributions to JETAANY, Awardee: Suzette Brown, First JETAANY President
- Exceptional Contributions to JETAANY, Awardee: Monica Yuki, JETAANY Board member, JETAA USA Country Representative
- Exceptional Contributions to the JET Community, Awardee: Steven Horowitz, JETwit founder and former JETAANY Board member
- Exceptional Contributions to US-Japan Relations, Awardee: George Rose, Second JETAANY President, Japanese Interpreter for the New York Yankees
- Exceptional Support of the JET Program and Contributions to the JET Community, Awardee: Matthew Gillam, Senior Researcher at the JLGC in NY
- Exceptional Contributions to US-Japan Relations, Awardee: James Gannon, Former JETAANY Board member, Executive Director, JCIE / USA
From beginning to end, the JETAANY Gala required heavy engagement on all levels, with local alumni, alumni across the country, US-Japanese organizations (like USJETAA and Sasakawa USA), government agencies (CLAIR NY and the Consulate-General of Japan in NY), as well as other friends and community members. Dozens of local alumni volunteered their time and efforts, and the event provided an opportunity to engage alumni that had not been active for a number of years. These alumni in turn reached out to other inactive alumni, and overall, led to activation of certain segments of the community who do not normally attend or participate in events.
In the early stages, CLAIR NY was instrumental in helping with funding, and provided a planning location. They also reached out to representatives from JETAA in other countries to see if they might join us, share messages, or have advice, including JETAA USA Country Rep Mark Frey, Ferra-Lynn McCaffrey in Ottawa, and the UK Country Rep, Sarah Parsons, in London.
Programming had the farthest reach by far. To start, they invited representatives from the Consulate-General of Japan of New York and CLAIR New York to guest speak, as well as participate in the kagami biraki ceremony (funded by the grant). Their presence elevated the event and further promoted friendship between the U.S. and Japan. In particular, the kagami biraki was a chance to bring new and innovative programming to the local community. No one on the JETAANY executive committee and board had seen a barrel-breaking ceremony, and this provided an educational element to the gala (explaining the meaning of “kagami-biraki,” etc.) to stimulate conversation and reflect on cultural values.
When planning the awards portion of the evening, they had the opportunity to connect with JETAANY alumni they had never met before, but who had greatly contributed to the JET Program and JETAANY (such as George Rose and Sue Brown). In addition, their decision to tap additional members of the community to present each award created additional opportunities to highlight the special connections between members of the community. Presenters included notable event attendees such as Paige Cottingham-Streater of the JUSFC; JETAA USA Country Rep Cheryl Hou; Laurel Lukaszewski & Bahia Simons-Lane of USJETAA; and Tatsuya Matsumoto, Kaori Ito, and Kotaro Kashiwai of CLAIR NY.
Additionally, because the gala was held on Setsubun, JETAANY chose to highlight it by inviting Reverend Earl Ikeda of the American Buddhist Study Center to speak about it, as well as have the MCs perform a skit to demonstrate the tradition. Thanks to the grant, they were able to do this and provide enough beans for all attendees to participate in the bean-tossing ceremony. Their hope is that this collaboration provided deeper context for the religious and cultural significance of this important event marking the changing of the seasons. The night began with a taiko performance, which enhanced engagement and provided the platform and foundation for a wonderful and interactive evening. It also highlighted the cross cultural nature of the night given that the taiko group is made up of both US and Japanese members who are connected through their mutual love of Japan and Japanese culture. In searching for the taiko group, JETAANY leveraged their alumni connections with universities, and enlisted the help of a less-active alumni, Jackson Pietsch, who headed the group. He has asked to be more involved going forward.
Goodwill messages were also collected from JET alumni and friends all over the world, which demonstrated the strength of JET alumni and friends and the continued, deep affection they have for JETAANY, the JET Program, and Japan.
Overall, the gala itself was the chapter’s biggest opportunity for engagement to date. It paid homage to the importance of their bilateral, international relationship; strengthened existing connections; created new connections; and emphasized the importance of programs like this.
They received an abundance of positive feedback, mainly in the form of personal posts on social media, but also via personal emails from VIPs such as Deputy General Consul Sato, who personally wrote to JETAANY leadership and called the event the most exciting gala he has attended. Given the number of requests for photos, press releases, and articles immediately following the event, it is hard to argue that the project did not engage the JET alumni community, on both local and national levels, while promoting understanding and friendship. Attendees have expressed excitement about attending other events, and those that did not attend, expressed interest in participating in related events. Attendees and non-attendees across the spectrum have noted a positive impact on the JETAANY brand, increased understanding of the JET program, and increased awareness of bilateral exchange on an educational level. They have also expressed interest in getting more involved in alumni chapters, both those in NY and in other cities, and have a better understanding of the resources, structure, and wider community after meeting members of the USJETAA and JETAA-USA “delegations” in person.
Impact on Community
The gala brought together and directly connected new JETs, senpai JETs (older returnees), and the Japanese community in a special, meaningful, and unique way for the first time in the chapter’s history. By enabling JETAANY to provide cultural components to this event that would not otherwise have been possible (e.g., kagami biraki ceremony, senpai alumni, taiko performance, branded masu cups), the event also demonstrated a level of prestige and professionalism that is visceral, tangible, visible, and marketable.
Through innovative programming and a diverse group of attendees, JETAANY generated significant interest in the JET Program and everything that JETs have to offer the U.S. and Japan. In an era where programs might be at risk, this was an opportunity to enhance JET’s brand as not only a grassroots internationalization, exchange, and teaching program; but as a growing leader in international communication and advisory networks (a resource for others, within and beyond JETAANY’s alumni community).
- Program (includes agenda and attendees)
- Photo albums from gala’s official photographer MaryAnn Talavera (JET alum)
- JETAANY President’s Speech
- Article: Justin’s Japan: JET Programme Alumni Gala Celebrates 30 Years (by JET alum)
- Article: Event Report: JETAANY Gala Celebrating 30 Years of the JET Program (by Rhonda)
- Article: JETAANY Gala for JET30 (by USJETAA)
JETAA Heartland Report
Event name: 40th Anniversary of Higashimurayama, Tokyo and Independence, MO Sister City Relationship
Organizers: Jeanae Brown and Dustin Henrich
Date: January 27th, 2018
Place: Truman Memorial Building
Number of Attendees: 106
- Jeannae Brown – Chairman of the Independence Sister City Council
- Dustin Henrich – President of Heartland JETAA
- Eric Wagner – Councilmen of Independence Sister City Council
- Cathy Coffman – AFS Program in Independence
The goal of this project was to start the revitalization of the Japanese Friendship Garden in Independence, Missouri before the 40th Anniversary of the sister city relationship. Heartland JETAA was able to successfully have new gravel put down for the walking trails and removal of the many dead trees and trim the plants and trees still alive. The gravel had washed away due to erosion and weeds had grown through what was left. There were several trees that weren’t blooming anymore and needed to be removed. The Sister City Council and the City host several events there throughout the year, so after they unveiled the completed revitalization work, the council was really happy with the work. The area the garden sits in is attached to Independence City Hall, which is part of the downtown area of Independence. Recently the area has been going through a boom in pedestrian traffic and small businesses are opening up in the area. By beautifying this garden, it will draw more attention to Independence’s role in Japanese culture.
The only part of the grant proposal Heartland couldn’t fulfill before the deadline was having JET Alumni, JAS members, and Sister City members get together to do more yard work. Due to the extreme cold temperatures on the weekends they postponed this to the spring. The City of Independence Council has agreed to purchase several trees with their own funds, so they will work with the city to have volunteers help at this event.
2:00 – 3:00 pm: Lunch and Networking
3:00 – 4:00 pm: 40th Anniversary Event
- Jeannae Brown – Chairman of the Independence Sister City Council
- Dustin Henrich – President of Heartland JETAA
- Eric Wagner – Councilmen of Independence Sister City Council
- Cathy Coffman – AFS Program in Independence
- Honoring the founder of the Independence Sister City Council
- Review of last year’s trip for the American students to Higashimurayama, Japan
- Toast by Jeannae Brown – Chairman of the Independence Sister City Council
4:00 – 4:15 pm: Official Photograph at the Garden