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Red Deer high schools to welcome Japanese students

Dozens of Japanese students will visit a pair of Red Deer high schools this week.

Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools will welcome a delegation of 67 grade 11 students and four chaperones from Yamate Gakuin High School in Yokohama, Japan to Red Deer, continuing a tradition of cultural exchange dating back to 1988.

The students and chaperones, who are scheduled to arrive at St. Joseph High School on Friday evening, will embark on a two-week journey in Central Alberta.

This year marks a return for the program, following a brief hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The visiting students will be welcomed into the homes of local host families while they attend St. Joseph and École Secondaire Notre Dame High School.

“We are thrilled to welcome the students from Yamate Gakuin High School to Central Alberta for the first time since 2018,” said Jeff Lerouge, dual credit program teacher at École Secondaire Notre Dame High School.

“This exchange has built bridges between our communities for over three decades, and we are proud to continue this tradition of friendship, learning, and cultural exchange. We look forward to two weeks of enriching experiences and lifelong memories.”

More than three decades since the program’s creation, many past participants in the program are still in touch with host families, Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools said in a media release.

“Congratulations to all involved in sustaining this incredible partnership. We look forward to another memorable chapter in our ongoing story of friendship and cultural exchange,” said Murray Hollman, Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools board chair.

In July and August, 17 students from École Secondaire Notre Dame High School, seven from St. Joseph High School and three from Innisfail High School (another program participant) will stay with local families in the Yokohama area as part of the second half of the exchange.

Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools serves over 10,650 students in 21 schools in Red Deer, Blackfalds, Sylvan Lake, Rocky Mountain House, Innisfail and Olds. It also supports the learning of over 850 students in a Home Education Program.

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