Business men and women from Suwa, Japan, travelled to St. Louis on Oct. 28, to tour WGHS, talk with students and learn about the high school’s Japanese program.
“The other language programs like the Spanish, German and French classes can travel and talk with native speakers. We don’t get to meet a lot of Japanese people, so this is a big deal,” senior Aerin Johnson said.
The visitors booked a hotel near the airport for a three-day visit and to see how high school language programs work in St. Louis, Suwa’s sister city. Japanese students prepared for the visit by practicing speaking Japanese in class and by creating posters proclaiming, “Welcome Suwa!” The visitors toured the school specifically to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the St. Louis-Suwa Sister City Program.
“There was a variety of people from Suwa. There were some educators, people from the International Friendship Association, a lot of politicians, chairmen: mostly people involved in international relationships,” Japanese teacher Trish Powers explained.
“They wanted to see American schools and how their Japanese classes worked. Especially for the third and fourth year students, it was a good opportunity. It’s great to see how much they can really communicate and use their language skills,” Powers said.
During third hour, Dr. Jon Clark took the group on a tour of the school and in fourth hour both the visitors and students gathered in the Japanese classroom for a party with trivia games, speaking activities and food. Powers explained the aspects of WGHS’s Japanese program to the visitors.
“It was a fun visit and a good experience for all involved,” Stephen Knapp, president of the St. Louis Suwa-Sister City Committee said
Half of the Suwa delegation visited Parkway South, because it’s the only other public school here currently teaching Japanese.
“They said we had a really nice building and kept asking me, ‘Are you sure this is a public high school?’” Powers said. “I do think it was a success. They were very impressed with our school and especially surprised by the options that we have.”
Anna Horiai is a Japanese exchange student who stays in a home stay with freshmen Logan Havice and Jade Kreckler. She partook in the festivities on Oct. 28, and said she really enjoyed it.
“America and Japan are quite different. Here there are a lot of people from other countries. In Japan, almost everybody is Asian!” she said. “There all the students stay in one class, and the teachers move to each class; I like that better. This school is very, very big and sometimes I get lost.”
Japanese students test right after middle school for entrance into high schools geared towards specific careers, so in contrast WGHS offers a much more well-rounded education.