Japanese students here as part of Friendship Exchange
By By JAMES COLLINS / Niles Daily Star
NILES -- The City of Niles is experiencing a rare opportunity to share our community with a group of international visitors.
On Tuesday night, the city welcomed a group of 10 visitors from Japan with a celebration banquet at the Riverfront Cafe.
There are eight students and two adults visiting Niles through the Chuzu Friendship Ambassador Exchange Program.
Niles Mayor Michael McClauslin welcomed the visitors and said it was an honor to have them here in Niles.
The Niles High School Japanese class and teacher Kim Knoll have facilitated the program and planned an itinerary for the visitors' week-long visit.
The banquet was attended by Niles City Council members and the families who are hosting the Japanese visitors.
After a pasta dinner, four of the Japanese students gave a kendo style martial arts demonstration.
Niles High School principal Betty Perkins then presented each student with a certificate honoring their visit to the high school.
She thanked Knoll and the Japanese class for their hard work that made this visit possible and gave a special thanks to Kanade Ochiai, a Japanese exchange student at Niles High School, who has been acting as a translator for the group's visit.
District Representative Chris Siebenmark then made some remarks on behalf of Michigan Senator Ron Jelinek. He presented a plaque to Niles High School acknowledging the significance of the visit.
The framed certificated also recognized each of the families serving as hosts for the visitors and was signed by Jelinek, State Representative Neal Nitz and Governor Jennifer Granholm.
Perkins said she plans to make a copy of the certificate for the Japanese guests to take home with them.
The final presentation came when McClauslin gave each visitor a plaque featuring the key to the city. He explained it is a time honored tradition to give the key to the city as a symbol of appreciation.
Ochiai stood up with each of the evening's presenters to translate their messages in Japanese.
The group arrived on Friday night and have already had a welcoming banquet, took a tour of Notre Dame's campus, had lunch with the Niles Noon Optimist Club and shadowed students around Niles High School for a day.
Today, the group is taking a field trip to Chicago to visit the Museum of Science and Industry and Navy Pier.
The visitors will have a farewell potluck banquet at the high school on Friday and will be departing for Japan on Saturday morning.