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Chalmette High School’s Japanese Cultural Arts Club Students Experience Trip of a Lifetime

Chalmette High School’s Japanese Cultural Arts Club Students Experience Trip of a Lifetime


It was an eye-opening and life-changing experience when the students from the Chalmette High School Japanese Cultural Arts Club and language classes took part in a week-long trip to this iconic Asian country. 


Dr. Tara  Sanchez, a veteran teacher at CHS and one of the only high school Japanese teachers in Louisiana, said the trip was made possible by the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA). “This year, eleven schools from across the country were selected by the Kakehashi Exchange to participate in programs from 5 themes. One is "Reconstruction from Disaster," Sanchez said. Her submission highlighted the impact of local disasters, including Hurricanes Betsy, Katrina, Isaac, Zeta, and Ida, as well as the Arabi tornadoes, which lead MOFA to invite Chalmette High for this opportunity.


The trip provided all expenses for 7 students and one chaperone, including airfare, bullet train transportation, hotels, meals, and admission to many cultural attractions.  Lynda Rost, long-time sponsor of the Japanese Cultural Arts Club and this year’s high school teacher of the year, also went. The CHS delegation joined groups from Texas and Washington for the sojourn which included three nights in Tokyo, two in Sendai City, and two in Marumori Town, where students were housed with local families. 


Sanchez said the personal connections made with the host families were a true highlight. Other memorable moments included watching a sumo practice, touring a nuclear particle accelerator, and seeing snow! “I think our students thought that (snow) was part of the hospitality since it's what they most wanted,” Sanchez joked. She added that her entourage were treated like rock stars during their visit to Sendai Higashi High School. They were honored guests at class Christmas parties and participated in sports and school-wide clean up time. “It was also great that students got to meet other American kids who share an interest in Japanese language and culture.”


Also part of the experience was a somber visit to the Arahama Elementary School Museum, a testament to the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami of 2011. Witnessing first-hand accounts of such devastation led to some challenging and difficult discussions. As part of their coursework throughout the trip, students had to do daily reflections and organize their findings into a presentation.


Sanchez said she was grateful for this opportunity, and was quick to thank those that made it possible, including Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Superintendent Doris Voitier, the leadership at Chalmette High School, and support from several local businesses. She was also proud of her students for immersing themselves fully into the experience.


“We wanted students to try new things, and use Japanese. I'm very proud to say that they stepped up! They tried many new foods and applied what they learned about culture in class. Mistakes were made, but everyone learned that mistakes are not the end of the world. Students came back with an appreciation of a different culture and are looking at their own culture with fresh eyes.”