TOMODACHI High School Women Career Mentoring Program in Fukushima 2018 STEP 1 Dance Workshop with the Young Americans
From August 13 to 16, 2018, STEP 1 of the TOMODACHI High School Women Career Mentoring Program in Fukushima 2018 supported by the TOMODACHI Combini Fund, titled “Dance Workshop with the Young Americans,” took place in Tokyo. One hundred and twenty-six high school sophomore women from throughout Fukushima Prefecture were selected to participate in this career mentoring program, which consists of four sessions or “STEPS.” Over the course of the program, the students interact with and learn from female mentors with various backgrounds, nationalities, and careers. The goal of the program is to support the students so they can broaden their perspectives and gain the confidence to open doors and discover new opportunities for their future.
During the program, participants are divided into groups of 6-7 that consist of students from different regions and schools. Twenty TOMODACHI alumni, who are university/technical school students, are also selected from Fukushima and Miyagi Prefectures to closely support each of the groups as mentors. In addition, four college students from the three Tohoku prefectures plan and organize this program as project assistants.
The first day of STEP 1 consisted of an opening session, followed by a team-building exercise in which the participants played games to break the ice and get acquainted with one another.
On the second day, the participants continued their team-building activities by creating team names and slogans, which they presented with their teams in front of all of the participants. On pieces of paper, they wrote about “how they envision themselves now and how they want to grow during the next six months of the program,” then folded the papers into airplanes, and threw them into the clear sky at Yoyogi Park in Tokyo.
Finally, in the afternoon, the Young Americans (YA), an American non-profit organization dedicated to music education, launched their workshop. Over two days, the students learned 20 dances and memorized a one-hour dance routine to perform on the third day. With support from the mentors, project assistants, and The Young Americans cast members, the participants learned English songs and dances. The participants encouraged one another, even occasionally practicing during breaks, saying that they will give the best performance possible.
After the workshop, the participants used drawings to convey their feelings and the changes they underwent. The participants gained a sense of the changes and growth within themselves, and built trust with their team members. Some of the participants’ thoughts included: “I know that I have infinite potential, and I want to challenge myself and believe in myself;” “I want to keep trying to be able to proudly let myself be me;” “I feel glad to be close with my team members.”
Approximately 600 guests gathered for the show, watching as each one of the students performed with all their strength and cheered for others when they were not on the stage. Surrounded by roaring applause, each one of the students contributed to a moving and dynamic show.
In the four days that composed STEP 1 of the program, the participants learned the importance and satisfaction of creating something with a group, opening themselves up to new challenges, and trusting teammates. This experience will help prepare the participants for STEP 2: Session with Foreign Exchange Students Studying in Japan, which will take place from October 27-28, 2018. The theme is “Challenge.” Participants will meet with foreign exchange students to discuss the reasons these exchange students of different nationalities chose to study in Japan, their future dreams, and their struggles. Through these discussions, the participants will determine the challenges they want to face, develop goals, and define how to achieve them.