The Consulate-General of Japan in Houston recently presented HISD with a $28,000 Japan Foundation grant to support the Japanese language program at Johnston Middle School. The check was awarded during a reception welcoming students from Chiba, Japan, who visited Houston Aug. 16 to 29 as part of the Japan America Society of Houston’s Houston-Chiba Youth Exchange program.
In an official statement, the Consulate-General of Japan said: “We sincerely hope that the Japan Foundation grant will help Johnston Middle School continue and expand their program to promote the study of Japanese language and culture in the greater Houston community.”
Johnston MS has long served as a bridge for Japanese-language studies between Kolter ES and Bellaire HS. Though the Japanese program at Kolter has fallen prey to budget cuts in recent years, students who complete the three-year sequential Japanese program at Johnston (earning a high school credit by the end of eighth grade) can go on to take Japanese II, III, IV and V at Bellaire. Many students in the program have competed in the Texas State Japanese Language Speech Competition, and some have gone on to national and international competition.
The student-exchange program between Houston and sister city Chiba (a port city located on Tokyo Bay, approximately 25 miles east of the Japanese capital) has been in place for 25 years. During that time, it has given many Houston-area students the opportunity to spend time in Japan, experiencing Japanese culture firsthand while living with local host families. All students selected over the past four years have been from Johnston, and in turn, families from Johnston have hosted students from Chiba.
“The grant will allow us to continue providing a high-quality, Japanese-language program for students,” said Johnston MS Principal Wenden Sanders. “We are fortunate to be able to support the City of Houston’s Sister-City program with Chiba, Japan. Our students have been able to communicate in Japanese with visiting students, thanks to the expert instruction at Johnston.”