Last week, St. Johnsbury Academy received a commitment from the Freeman Foundation to fund this year's Academy trip to Japan, which includes stops in Tokyo, Nagasaki and Kyoto. This program, begun in 1994, has allowed over 100 SJA Japanese language students and dozens of faculty members to visit Japan.
All Academy students in good academic standing who take Japanese language classes are eligible to apply for the annual trip. The selection process includes a written application and an interview. While in Japan, students visit a number of schools, stay with host families, and travel throughout the country. Chip Mesics, Academy Japanese teacher and coordinator of trip, said, "This trip has always been a very positive experience for everyone. Many students who have taken the trip have developed a long-term interest in Japan, going on to study abroad, work, and even live there."
The Freemen Foundation was initially drawn to support the Academy by the school's Asian experience and initiatives. In the early 90s, SJA was the only school in Vermont to teach Japanese, and was also already hosting the Kaijo School visit, during which students from Tokyo visit the Academy each spring. The school also had many students from Japan participating in the resident student program. To help expand upon these programs, the Freemans offered students and faculty the opportunity to travel to Japan each year. In addition, the Freeman Foundation funded a modern language-learning center at the Academy.
Mr. and Mrs. Freeman traveled to St. Johnsbury each spring following the Japan trip to share lunch and stories with the SJA students who recently returned from their travels. Associate Headmaster Jack Cummings said, "Their interest in each child and the impact that Japanese study had on their lives was always personal. After Mr. Freeman passed away in 2010, Doreen and her son Graeme made one more trip to St. Johnsbury."
Cummings continued, "We have been blessed to receive such generous support and leadership from these families whose vision and philanthropy have made our school and the wider world a better place. The Freeman Foundation, under the leadership of Graeme Freeman, will continue to support understanding between East Asia and the U.S."