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Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Disaster zone students to visit U.S. as 'envoys'


FUKUSHIMA — Sixteen junior high and high school students from the three prefectures severely affected by the March disasters will visit the U.S. next month at the invitation of Washington to serve as teen envoys representing people in the disaster zones, prefectural officials and other sources said.

Ten were selected from junior high schools in Rikuzentakata, Iwate Prefecture, and Ishinomaki, Miyagi Prefecture, where two Americans, Montgomery Dickson, 26, of Alaska and Taylor Anderson, 24, of Virginia, fell victim to the tsunami while serving as assistant language teachers.

The six high school students are from Fukushima Prefecture, home of the crisis-hit Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant. The six boys and girls now attend school as evacuees and include members of a baseball team.

A consul in charge of the three prefectures at the U.S. Consulate General in Sapporo said the program is intended to encourage Japanese youths to help American students learn about the disasters and how they can support the region.

The students will stay in Pennsylvania and other locales for two weeks starting Aug. 10, with the U.S. covering travel and accommodations expenses.

Their itinerary includes practicing baseball and softball with American teens and meeting with former baseball star Cal Ripken Jr., who played in a record 2,632 consecutive games.

Dickson was teaching until the day of the disaster, according to the Council of Local Authorities for International Relations, which dispatches assistant language teachers under the Japan Exchange and Teaching Program. Dickson was reportedly at the city's board of education when the tsunami struck and was swept away with its building.

Anderson stayed with her elementary school pupils until their guardians came to pick them up before heading home on a bicycle, they said. It is believed she was struck by the tsunami on her way.

The trip participants include five girls who were students of Anderson.

"This is an exchange project to honor the two who died while on their way to accomplish their goals," a JET official said.

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