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Five Or 10 Ambassadors To Hikone?

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5 or 10 ambassadors to Hikone?


Five Ann Arbor junior high school students are going to Hikone. Five others are hoping they will be part of the delegation traveling to Ann Arbor’s sister city in Japan on July 4. But a lack of funds may dash their hopes of being goodwill ambassadors to the small city near Kyoto, Japan.

Coordinators of the two-week Hikone-Ann Arbor Exchange Trip have been scrambling to raise money since last fall, but so far they have accumulated only about $15,000, half the amount needed to send all ten students who were chosen for the July trip.

“We are definitely concerned that some may not be able to go,” said Barbara Drubel, a chaperone and English teacher at Forsythe Intermediate School.

Megan Tvaska, 12, is one of the “alternates” who will travel to Japan to represent Clague Intermediate School only if enough money is raised. She wants to learn the differences and similarities between Japanese and American schools.

Tvaska remains optimistic the money will come through, but she is prepared for a letdown. “I’m excited to figure out if I go, but if I don’t, I still have a real good friend that’s going, and she could tell me all about it,’’she said.

The other alternates are Amy Checkoway (Tappan), Karensa Fitch (Scarlett), William Ratcliff (Forsythe) and Heather MacLean (Slauson). The five official delegates are Margaret Makinen (Clague), Damian Petrescu (Forsythe), Jason Rogers (Tappan), Trey Schek (Scarlett) and Jessica Golmanavich (Slauson).

The 1988 Hikone-Ann Arbor Exchange will mark the second time Ann Arbor students have traveled to Japan; Hikone teen-agers have come to Ann Arbor ten times since the two cities formed ties in 1969.

In 1985, ten Ann Arbor seventh and eighth-graders flew to Japan to live with Japanese families and explore the country. That trip was funded largely by corporate donations.

But Drubel said companies this year may be more reluctant to donate money a second time. In all, Drubel would like to raise $40,000, which would leave extra money to set up a foundation for future trips.

So far, several area businesses, including several Japanese firms, and the City of Ann Arbor, have donated. Also, a benefit jazz concert last December added money to the coffers.

“We are still negotiating with many local American-owned businesses, including the Big Three auto makers,” said Drubel, who has not yet given up hope that enough money will be donated.

Drubel hopes business people see educational significance in the trip.

“The actual exchange is much bigger than the trip. Every single seventh and eighth-grader in Ann Arbor is touched by it,” Drubel said.

The students will live with families in Hikone, visit Tokyo and Kyoto, and deliver one thousand folded paper cranes - a traditional peace offering - to a statue in Hiroshima.

About 150 students applied to go on the trip. The ten students who were selected, two from each school, showed interest in Japan and ability to relate experiences to their classmates.

The huge eagerness to participate reflects students’ curiosity about Japan, Drubel said.

Trey Schek, 13, said he will be an ambassador of good relations. “I can teach them that we’re not just a trade enemy; we want to be friends,” said Schek.

Despite the cultural differences, Schek is sure the Japanese children will be much like his own classmates. “We’ve seen videotapes of them at school, and they try to sneak in late to class and stuff,” Schek said.

Damian Petrescu, 12, wants to dispel any myths Japanese might have about Americans.

“They think we are rude and we ask too many questions and we keep interrupting them,” said Petrescu. “We can show them not all Americans are like that.”

Donations for the trip can be sent to treasurer Jennifer Brown, First of America Bank, 115 Washtenaw Place, Ann Arbor 48104. Checks should be made out to Ann Arbor-Hikone Exchange.

Delegates and alternates from top: Magan Tvaska (I), Amy Checkoway (r), Jason Rogers, Heather MacLean, Karensa Fitch, William Ratcliff, Trey Schek, Margaret Makinen, Damian Petrescu and Jessica Golmanavich.