Opening Ceremony @ Kyoto Gakuen

Today was opening day at Kyoto Gakuen High School, the first day of school. This is the day that the visiting Modesto students are usually introduced to the Kyoto student body. It is where both students and administrators make speeches about the partnership between our schools. And it is where the friendships between our schools are celebrated. This year the tone was completely different from the past 20 years, and the Modesto students were noticeably absent from the ceremony.

It only seems right that the person who started this exchange program back when he was the principal at Beyer High School was able to give his last speech to the assembled student body prior to his retirement this June. Chris Flesuras (MCS Deputy Superintendent) stood in the sun with the cherry blossoms as his backdrop and spoke to the students about this continued partnership between the schools, and how this year the Modesto students had to postpone their visit until Summer due to the earthquake and tsunami.

Ruben Villalobos (MCS School Board Member) grew up in a family that supported exchange programs. He himself went on several exchanges as a student, and was host to others over the years. He gave a speech to the assembled student body about the extraordinary events that unfolded over the past month, and the delay of the Modesto student’s visit to Kyoto.

Ruben has been hard at work since the earthquake fund raising for the tsunami relief in Japan. He received donations from over 60 people in Modesto. He recently had a lobster, crab and prawn feed at his house to raise funds to donate to Kyoto Gakuen’s efforts to aid those affected by this disaster. Here he humbly gives the donations to Principal Sasai at the Opening Ceremony in front of the assembled student body with Chris Flesuras watching on.

There were also declarations from the Modesto City Schools Board and others to be given to the school in recognition of our ongoing partnership and cultural exchanges that take place every year.

This trip serves to strengthen the bonds between our schools in light of recent events. While the student’s exchange had to be rescheduled for June, it was important for Modesto City Schools to hold to our commitments and be there with these representatives to welcome the new students to Kyoto Gakuen and to participate in the Opening Ceremony at the start of the school year for Kyoto Gakuen.

Tomorrow Ruben will be “Skyping” in to participate in an extended Board Meeting back in Modesto. Chris and Ruben will be returning to Modesto on Tuesday after a week’s stay in Kyoto. We look forward to hearing more about their trip and getting to see more pictures. It is a relief to see that life in Kyoto continues and that their historic city was spared damage from the earthquakes of the past month.

We start planning for our rescheduled June exchange trip this week. The students are very relieved that all is well in Kyoto and that their friends eagerly await their arrival in June.


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