PORT TOWNSEND — Students from Ichikawa, Japan, visited their sister city of Port Townsend on Tuesday, despite the city’s current lack of a student exchange program.
The eight students from Japan have spent the past week in Shoreline, but made a stop in Port Townsend to visit their sister city before they head back to Japan today, according to Roarke Jennings, one of the people who is trying to restart the Port Townsend student exchange program.
According to Jennings, in the early 1990s and 2000s roughly 10 students from Port Townsend would make the annual trip to Ichikawa as part of the sister city student exchange. However, after the previous program director retired, the program fizzled.
Because the students from Ichikawa usually can only visit in the summer, it has been difficult to get schools on board for coordinating home stays and activities for the visiting students, Jennings said.
The Japanese sister city also has an easier time coordinating these kinds of programs than their American counterparts because their schools are run by the city so the whole process is nearly seamless, according to Catherine McNabb, Port Townsend’s purchasing coordinator and the sister city program coordinator.
“I’m very sad the student exchange isn’t happening,” McNabb said. “All the kids I’ve ever spoken to who have participated say it’s life changing.”
Jennings, along with Julie Brown — a community member interested in restarting the program — are hoping to restart the program. They have already reached out to the Jefferson Community School, which has a history of international travel and have plans to reach out to Port Townsend High School in the near future.
“Hopefully Jefferson Community School will be able to continue the program,” Jennings said. “It seems to fit their motto, but it would be best if everyone is involved.”
Roughly a dozen students from the Jefferson Community School showed up Tuesday for a bilingual scavenger hunt around Port Townsend and a lunch of temaki sushi, a do-it-yourself sushi where students were able to choose their own toppings and simply fold them into the rice and seaweed, rather than roll it like traditional sushi.
The eight students from Ichikawa also were treated to a tour of the Northwest Maritime Center and its boating simulator. They took a tour on a boat, sailing Port Townsend’s waterfront, and went on a historical tour of the city with guides from the Jefferson County Historical Society.
“This program really help us understand other countries and see these people as people,” said Port Townsend Mayor Deborah Stinson, who was at Tuesday’s sushi lunch. “This is a way for all of us to experience that.”
While the student exchange is struggling the city’s adult sister city programs are still going strong, according to McNabb.
A number of Port Townsend residents already have signed up to go on the October 2017 trip to Ichikawa to celebrate 15 years of being sister cities.
“Even as an adult it’s a life changing trip,” said McNabb, who has visited Ichikawa three times now. “They’re just so hospitable.”
Adults interested in the October trip can contact McNabb at firstname.lastname@example.org.
McNabb said the deadline to sign up for the trip is Sept. 15. Local students who would be interested in the student exchange program can contact Jennings at Roarke.Jennings@gmail.com.
Jefferson County Editor/Reporter Cydney McFarland can be reached at 360-385-2335, ext. 55052, or at email@example.com.