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International presentation at Shaler Area helps students expand horizons

| Wednesday, March 26, 2014, 9:03 p.m.
Bethany Hofstetter | Shaler Journal
Ichiro Fujisaki, former Japanese Ambassador to the United States, visited Shaler Area High School on March 19 to speak to students from Shaler Area and Fox Chapel and six other school districts via video conference about domestic and international issues.

Shaler Area High School hosted international guest Ichiro Fujisaki, the former Japanese ambassador to the United States, in a seminar that involved eight Western Pennsylvania high schools.

The World Affairs Council of Pittsburgh, a nonprofit organization that promotes an understanding of international issues, arranged the seminar with the former ambassador and asked Shaler Area to host in part because of its strong Japanese program.

Students from the Shaler Area and Fox Chapel Area school districts attended the seminar at the Shaler Area High School, and students from the Conneaut Area, Hampton, Cornell, Elizabeth Forward and Gateway school districts participated via video conference.

“We think it's really important for students, especially from our area, to engage with international speakers who have a breadth of experiences they're not familiar … to give students a good way to broaden their horizon,” said Elizabeth Cook, program associate for the World Affairs Council of Pittsburgh.

Shaler Area offers five levels of Japanese, including an Advanced Placement-level course.

Steven Balsomico, Shaler Area Japanese teacher, said the opportunity to hear Fujisaki speak about domestic and international issues brings a better understanding of the Japanese culture and Japanese-American relations to the students.

“I try to bring as much culture and teach the culture in the language,” Balsomico said. “You can't understand the language without the culture.”

Holly Shearin, a Shaler Area senior, is taking “AP Japanese” and said she appreciated the opportunity to hear Fujisaki speak.

“It's definitely an honor because you get to see the Japanese and American culture come together, and it's very interesting because they're very different,” Shearin said.

On March 7, Shearin won first place in the High School Japanese Speech Contest sponsored by The Japan-America Society of Pennsylvania in the Advanced Plus level, the highest level in the competition. Because of her proficiency in the language, the high school's gifted and talented education staff, which supported the seminar, asked her to write a thank you note to Fujisaki.

“In Japanese, you have different levels of formality, and the formal version of speech and writing we just learned last week; it did help apply what I just learned,” Shearin said. “It was definitely an honor and privilege to indirectly communicate with him.”

Bethany Hofstetter is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-772-6364 or bhofstetter@tribweb.com.

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