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Japan Culture Night in Dooley School
Parents Look for Japanese Classes in High School

• Thomas Dooley Elementary School in Schaumburg enjoyed “Japan Culture Night” on March 4. More than 300 students and adults experienced tea ceremony, origami, kimono dressing, sushi, shopping, shaved ice, omikoshi (portable shrine) carrying, silent auction, and many more. The students from Ritsumeikan Moriyama High School from Japan joined the night and introduced a unique exercise dance created by the school.

• Dooley started Japanese Dual Language programs more than 10 years ago. In the dual language classes, students are taught by using Japanese language all day and taught by English the next day. Japanese and English are switched alternatively. The dual language programs continue to the sixth grade.
• The programs are not just for Japanese students, but for the residents of the School District 211. Robi Vollkommer, chairwoman of the parent association, moved to Schaumburg to bring her three children into the programs

• The programs have become popular; however, the students are not able to continue Japanese language study when they graduate the school. Although they can take Japanese classes at the Jane Addams Junior High School, there is no Japanese class in high school. So Vollkommer and other parents have asked the District 211 to open Japanese classes in high school.
• Two years ago, Vollkommer and people from the District 211 visited Omron for support, and the company was positive to support, but wanted to do it with other Japanese companies. The District 211 wanted to see how many students were interested in registering Japanese classes if the District opened the classes.

• Currently, high schools in the District offer Spanish, German, and Chinese.
• Chinese classes started three years ago, but the District saw the classes were not a sustaining program because of small number of students. For this reason, the District has concerned about opening Japanese classes.

• This summer, Vollkommer and other parents will have a chance to persuade the District. An online workshop of Japanese for the sixth graders to eighth graders will be held during summer break, and if many students registrate it, the District will consider opening Japanese classes in high schools.
• The number of students, who are taking Japanese classes, is about 60 in the sixth to eighth grades. Vollkommer sees if a half of them registrate the online program, it would give an impact to the District. She is going to urge the students and their parents to registrate it.

• From financial aid perspective, the Japan Foundation Los Angeles has offered a $30,000 grant for a Japanese teacher in California. Vollkommer said that the District might be seeking a possibility of the similar grant.

• Robi Vollkommer speaks fluent Japanese and writes Japanese letters. She had a close friend of Japanese descent when she was a child. Although her friend didn’t speak Japanese, her parents always spoke Japanese. Vollkommer wondered what Japan looked like and thought that she would go there someday.
• After studied Japanese at college for one year, she went to Shizuoka City in Japan from 1993 to 1995. She lived with her host family and studied Japanese at a private school. There was no one spoke English, so she studied hard.
• When she returned to the U.S., she found an international sales job that brought her opportunities to go to Japan for many times. Currently Vollkommer works for a Japanese human resource company.

• Regarding the School District 211’s concern about class sustainability, Vollkommer said, “I think that Japanese classes are different from Chinese ones because many Japanese people live around here and so many Japanese companies locate here. There will be chances for students to do internship in the companies.” Through her job, she often visits and meets Japanese executives. She said, “I often hear from the executives that they would appreciate it if American employees understand a little more about Japanese culture and customs. If the students continue to study Japanese, they would learn more about Japanese culture. The best thing is that the students can work in Japanese companies in the future. Everybody is in the win-win situation.”

Robi Vollkommer, chairwoman of the "Oyanokai"
parent association