“I see you all studying so hard, so I think I should study more,” said Japanese exchange student Sasha Alvarez, during an assembly goodbye on April 14. For the past three weeks, Alvarez and her classmate, Akihiro “Aki” Yamashita, have been honorary students at Nobles. Both are 11th graders at SIT (Sapporo Intercultural and Technological High School, a public school in Sapporo, Hokkaido). Their last day, they sang a bittersweet farewell with the Japanese language students who served as their campus ambassadors and homestay brothers and sisters. Alvarez and Yamashita expressed profound gratitude for the kindness and help they received, emphasizing how much they had learned and how sad they were to leave. Yamashita said in earnest, “This has been the most agreeable experience of my life.”
The exchange is one of many opportunities offered by Nobles’ EXCEL (Experiential and Community Engaged Learning) program, centered on the school’s mission of leadership for the public good. Director of EXCEL Ben Snyder explains, “EXCEL brings together study and service, personal exploration and community engagement.” One important pillar of the program is global and cross-cultural immersion, like the exchange with SIT. Nobles prides itself on longtime, meaningful partnerships with organizations and institutions with whom it engages in service and education.
Since 2002, SIT has sent eight students to Nobles for a week every other fall (“odd” years), and two students for a longer period in the spring. Nobles students attend SIT for a month in the summer of “even” years, traveling throughout the country and exploring Japan’s history and contemporary aspects. Most importantly, they hone language skills and immerse themselves culturally through homestays and classes with SIT students.
Japanese teacher and exchange organizer Tomoko Graham says, “I see great impact on these individual students through adapting and integrating themselves into our school community.” She appreciates the enthusiastic support of Nobles faculty, and says, “I have no doubt the experiences the SIT students had in their classes will help shape their futures.”
Some visit highlights were celebrating Immigrants’ Day at the State House with Community Service Director Linda Hurley, exploring the Museum of Fine Arts with Japanese II students and sightseeing around Boston for a day. Of course, they couldn’t head back to Japan without the Beantown bucket-list experience—a Red Sox game. Japanese teacher Ayako Anderson enjoyed having Alvarez and Yamashita in class, and remembers the bus ride back from the MFA as “full of happy chatter, singing and laughter.”
The Rueppels (Meryl ’16 and Lizzy ’18), one of the six families to invite the Japanese students into their homes, wrote to Alvarez’s parents: “We enjoyed learning about her background, your family, her city and her school, and we send her back to you with what we know is a heart full of memories.” The Giandomenico, Guzman, Harris, Hornstein and Pandian families also hosted. The openness, curiosity and warmth of such members of the Nobles community, from students to families and graduates, helps EXCEL reach beyond the classroom—and around the world.