U.S. Training for the TOMODACHI Summer SoftBank Leadership Program 2.0
Photo Credit: Deputy Consul General Hajime Kishimori
From July 26th to August 16th, 2023, the U.S. training of the TOMODACHI Summer SoftBank Leadership Program 2.0 was held, and seventeen Japanese high school and college students along with three community mentors participated in the training at the University of California, Berkeley (UC Berkeley). The goal of this program is to encourage students to cultivate their civic leadership capacity, and to make a difference in their home communities.
While in the U.S., students studied at UC Berkeley in a custom designed program based on the Y-PLAN, which is a civic learning strategy developed by UC Berkeley’s Center for Cities + Schools (CC+S). The curriculum focuses on leadership, optimism, perseverance, resilience, creativity and innovation, and empathy. Students developed detailed action plans based on identified areas of interest and need in their home communities. They visited examples of successful social entrepreneurship such as Planting Justice, an urban farming organization responsible for creating over 550 edible permaculture gardens in the San Francisco Bay Area, while working with five high schools to develop food justice curriculum and creating over 40 green jobs in the food justice movement for people transitioning from prison. Students also visited well known San Francisco communities of resilience and innovation such as the Castro, the Mission and Japantown.
Recognizing the importance of support and a strong team dynamic, students lived together with committees formed to provide meals, recreation and cultural direction. The importance of teamwork was stressed through basic examples, such as meals and caring for communal spaces, etc. The U.S. portion of the program culminated with a commencement ceremony attended by Consul General Yasushi Noguchi, Deputy Council General Hajime Kishimori, and Suzanne Basalla, President and Chief Executive Officer of the U.S.-Japan Council and other community members including TOMODACHI alumni now living in Berkeley.
The next phase of the program will focus on action plan implementation supported locally mainly by the regional mentors. In December, the program will host the final presentation in Tohoku where participants will provide updates and results of their action plans.