BOONSBORO — The governor of Kanagawa Prefecture, Japan — Maryland’s “sister state” — visited Boonsboro High School Thursday to thank the students for their donations to earthquake relief and formalize a “sister school” agreement with a high school in his prefecture.
“Kanagawa has nine high schools that have sister-school relations with schools of Maryland,” Gov. Yuji Kuroiwa said at a ceremony in the auditorium. “Today, Boonsboro High School and Shichirigahama Senior High School formally establish a sister-school relationship, too. I wish that we will also conduct many exchange activities and nurture friendship for a long time to come.”
Boonsboro High School Principal Peggy Pugh and Shichirigahama Senior High School Principal Koichi Yoshida then signed an “Educational Exchange Relationship” agreement to explore the possibility of cooperating in joint educational projects and seeking to expand and develop their relationship.
Situated in the city of Kamakura on the coast of Japan, about 30 miles south of Tokyo, Shichirigahama Senior High School is a public school serving about 830 students in grades 10-12, Yoshida said.
The two schools are interested in developing an exchange program in which Boonsboro students would visit Japan, and Japanese students would visit Boonsboro, but the details have not been worked out, Pugh said after the ceremony.
Boonsboro High School is the only school in the county school system that offers Japanese language classes, Pugh said.
The program began in the 2006-2007 school year with one class and grew quickly under the leadership of Japanese teacher Ayako Shiga, she said.
The school now offers four levels of honors Japanese, competes in the national Japan Bowl language and culture competition, and has a Japanese National Honor Society chapter.
Students in this year’s Japanese IV class are planning a five-day trip to Japan in the spring that will include a visit to their new sister school, Pugh said.
Last school year, students had been planning to visit Japan over the summer, but when a devastating earthquake and tsunami hit Japan on March 11, the students decided to donate the money that they had raised for the trip to earthquake relief.
They also made and sold paper cranes, raising a total of more than $6,000 that Shiga delivered to a high school in one of the worst hit areas of Japan, Pugh said.
“I would like to take this occasion to express my deep appreciation on behalf of the 9 million prefecture citizens,” Kuroiwa said of the students’ donations.
He called the disaster “an extremely shocking incident for the Japanese people” and said reconstruction efforts are taking place little by little.
Thursday’s visit also included performances by Boonsboro High School band and chorus groups, an exchange of gifts, and a tea ceremony, during which Boonsboro Elementary School students led the singing of “Sakura,” a Japanese folk song about cherry blossoms.