TOMODACHI Alumni Gather in person for the First Time in Two Years; Hosted by the U.S. Consulate in Fukuoka
On April 15th 2022, the Kyushu TOMODACHI Alumni Gathering was hosted by TOMODACHI alumni and the U.S. Consulate in Fukuoka. It was the first time an in-person event took place since the beginning of the pandemic. The event was attended by 25 alumni and staff members from the Consulate and U.S.-Japan Council, followed by strict COVID-19 prevention guidelines. The alumni were very excited to see each other once again face-to-face since all the alumni programs and events have been held online since early 2020.
David Palacios, Regional Representative of the Kyushu Region, co-organized this event in collaboration with the Consulate as his first in-person event to provide the regional alumni an opportunity to get to know each other and cultivate the community. He engaged two other vital alumni in the region, Haruka Kurosawa, who served as the Regional Leader of the Kyushu Region from 2019 to 2021 and Kellie Tokunaga, alumna of the TOMODACHI Kakehashi Inouye Scholars Program. They kicked off the event with an icebreaker activity for alumni to get comfortable with each other by sharing their own personal experience with TOMODACHI and the impact it had on their academic and professional paths.
This was a unique opportunity for alumni to gather, hosted by the U.S. Consulate in Fukuoka that has been supporting Kyushu Regional alumni activities since 2016. Yuki Kondo-Shah, Public Affairs Officer at the U.S. Consulate in Fukuoka and Chie Inuzuka, Director at the Fukuoka American Center, welcomed the group and spoke about their own relationship with the TOMODACHI Initiative and highlighted its importance in U.S.-Japan bilateral relations. Ms. Kondo-Shah emphasized how important the U.S.-Japan relations are for herself as a Japanese American and for the entire world as it is the only bilateral relationship that used to fight against each other during WWII but now has one of the strongest and most important relationships in the world.
Followingly, Yukari Shishido, Alumni Coordinator at TOMODACHI Initiative, thanked the Consulate for their continued support and introduced the brand new TOMODACHI Regional Framework to our Japan-based alumni. Starting this year the framework will expand to the United States for the first time and will focus on growing and strengthening our alumni communities on both sides of the Pacific.
Kellie Tokunaga helped organize this gathering and commented that she appreciates this opportunity to get to know many like-minded alumni because it was her first time to meet with them although she has lived in the region for a couple of years. She hopes to be a part of this community for future events.
Takanori Hayashi, alumnus of the TOMODACHI-Mitsui & Co. Leadership Program, took a half day off to join this event from Oita Prefecture, saying, “It was a great event and I appreciate those who organized it. As a senior alumni, I am happy to share my experience and knowledge to younger generations, and vice versa, I would like to learn new things from them.”
Aika May Talavera, alumna of the TOMODACHI MetLife Women’s Leadership Program, commented, “the icebreaker calmed my nerves down, and everyone was quite engaged with talking to each other! I’d love to stay in touch and help out in the future.”
This event was a part of the TOMODACHI Alumni Regional Framework and is made possible with the generous support of Prudential.