gmhTODAY 01 gmhToday Mar Apr 2015 - Page 83

Connecting Youth across the Pacific The Little’s built the Morgan Hill Sister Cities student exchange program from the ground up with a focus on local middle schools. “We work with the schools to identify students who, along with their families, are interested in participating in the student exchange program,” Judy said. The Little’s have managed all of the 10-day student exchange trips, which typically include six to eight students. It’s a serious commitment on the part of every- one involved. “In the six months leading up to a trip, we meet regularly with the students and mentor them in preparation for their time in Japan. Murv makes a video of each stu- dent speaking on why they want to go to Japan. “Our students learn basic Japanese language terms and study the culture, customs and current events. They create a Powerpoint presentation about Morgan Hill and what they’d like to learn about Mizuho during their visit. And they work on solo and group performances that showcase American cultural arts. Students cover the cost of their exchange program travel and activities through fundraising presentations to non-profit organizations and selling See’s Candies around various holidays. “In Mizuho, they accompany their Japanese host students to school, community events, local tours and special outings. “Last year, our students performed line dancing to country music and did poetry readings as part of their formal presentations. On a previous trip, they performed ‘Take Me Out To The Ballgame’ and handed out boxes of Cracker Jack. Each year, we try something different and guide all of the students to participate based on their individual skills and interests. “Young people are like sponges,” Judy said. “They love new things and pick up elements of the language and customs of other cultures very quickly.” Judy and Murv also coordinate Morgan Hill host families and local activities for Japanese students visiting from Mizuho, which runs the gamut from attending the Freedom Fest to touring Google headquarters in Mountain View. “Our visiting students get to meet with city and school board officials and non- profits like the Lions and Kiwanis Clubs,” Judy said. “We help them prepare questions and encourage them to speak up, and believe me, they do!” Celebrating the Arts The Little’s also oversee a cultural arts exchange with Mizuho. In January, they sent a number of large quilts, hand- crafted by members of South Valley Quilt Association. These will be displayed by the Mizuho Quilt Guild in a brand new gallery during their city’s annual cherry blossom festival. In September, Japanese quilts and textile arts from Mizuho will be featured at the annual Harvest Quilt & Fiber Arts Show during Taste of Morgan Hill. Mary Ann Bruegmann, a member of the South Valley Quilt Association, has come to know Judy after eight years of collaborating on the quilt and fiber arts exchange. “It was Judy who first suggested the quilt exchange,” Mary Ann said. “One year she invited us to a Sister Cities meeting so we could make a personal connection with visiting guests from Mizuho. Judy is smart, efficient, and has a great sense of humor. She’s very thoughtful about making the arts exchange meaningful and enjoyable for everyone.” G M