News

Around Town: Sister-city relationship grows stronger with $100K gift for student exchange program

Donation allows more Palo Alto middle schoolers to form bonds with peers in Tsuchiura, Japan

In the latest Around Town column, news about a substantial donation to support bonds between youth in Palo Alto and Tsuchiura, Japan, new leaders for local nonprofits and a famous director who's serving as grand marshal for a well-known Chinese New Year Parade this weekend.

CROSS-CULTURAL CONNECTIONS ... Despite being an ocean apart, Palo Alto and Tsuchiura, Japan's sister-city relationship has been strengthened with a $100,000 donation for a student exchange program between the two destinations. The substantial gift from Keiko Nakajima, a retired Japanese teacher who taught at the Palo Alto Unified School District, and her husband, Yasuo Kishimoto, gives the 20-plus-year program, coordinated by nonprofit Neighbors Abroad, security in furthering its goal of fostering international ties between youth from both sides of the Pacific Ocean. It is the third-largest gift in the nonprofit's history, according to the organization's president Bob Wenzlau. Nakajima, who started the program, worked at Palo Alto Unified from 2001 to 2014. The couple now lives in Tokyo, Japan. "We miss you Palo Alto!" Nakajima said in a statement to the Weekly. The program pairs 32 middle school students — 16 from each of the two cities — who stay with a host family, tour the foreign country and shadow a fellow youth at their respective campuses. The program's 2020 and 2021 trips were canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, much to the disappointment of some Palo Alto students who had been anticipating the experience, according to board member Jennifer Buenrostro, vice president of Neighbors Abroad's Tsuchiura relationship. The Tsuchiura cohort usually comes to Palo Alto in March, and their Palo Alto buddies head over to Tsuchiura in June, Buenrostro said. The nonprofit hopes to begin recruiting this September and resume in 2022, if public health conditions allow. "This program really touches my heart. ... It's a really amazing opportunity," she said. "This will help ensure the existence of the program for the next at least few years." .The funds will help support chaperone expenses for Palo Altans visiting Tsuchiura, program activities and other costs. Tsuchiura, roughly 90 minutes north of Tokyo and known for its annual fireworks competition, became a Palo Alto sister city in 2009.

Evanllelyn Sanchez, a seventh grader at Greene Middle School, meets Palo Alto High senior Callan Malone for a tutoring session. Courtesy DreamCatchers.

NEW LEADERSHIP ... A pair of local nonprofits have seen new leaders take the helm this month. On Feb. 9, DreamCatchers announced its new executive director, Gezel Frederick, who had been serving in the role in the interim. She joined the organization, which helps students become high school ready, in August as an education director. She previously served as the assistant director of Cayuga Centers Unaccompanied Migrant Children in New York. Gezel has a master's degree in education and taught in underserved communities for eight years. The national search was conducted by parents, volunteers and members of the nonprofit's board of directors. Carolina Hahn has stepped into the executive director role at Blossom Birth, a resource center in the California Avenue business district for pregnant women and new parents. Hahn became involved with the nonprofit while pregnant with her daughter and started offering yoga lessons at Blossom when her little girl turned a year old and soon after she was expecting her son. She rose up the ranks in the organization as a program manager in 2018, assistant director in 2020 and executive director this year.

SPREAD POSITIVE VIBES ... As the coronavirus crisis continues to unravel at home and around the world, we want to share positive stories from our readers for upcoming Around Town columns. Have you witnessed a random act of kindness or watched the community form bonds while maintaining a safe social distance? Or have you seen a creative project come about as many stay at home? Send us your story in 250 words or less by email to [email protected] Photos are also welcome. We look forward to hearing your stories!

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Around Town: Sister-city relationship grows stronger with $100K gift for student exchange program

Donation allows more Palo Alto middle schoolers to form bonds with peers in Tsuchiura, Japan

by / Palo Alto Weekly

Uploaded: Sun, Feb 21, 2021, 7:44 am

In the latest Around Town column, news about a substantial donation to support bonds between youth in Palo Alto and Tsuchiura, Japan, new leaders for local nonprofits and a famous director who's serving as grand marshal for a well-known Chinese New Year Parade this weekend.

CROSS-CULTURAL CONNECTIONS ... Despite being an ocean apart, Palo Alto and Tsuchiura, Japan's sister-city relationship has been strengthened with a $100,000 donation for a student exchange program between the two destinations. The substantial gift from Keiko Nakajima, a retired Japanese teacher who taught at the Palo Alto Unified School District, and her husband, Yasuo Kishimoto, gives the 20-plus-year program, coordinated by nonprofit Neighbors Abroad, security in furthering its goal of fostering international ties between youth from both sides of the Pacific Ocean. It is the third-largest gift in the nonprofit's history, according to the organization's president Bob Wenzlau. Nakajima, who started the program, worked at Palo Alto Unified from 2001 to 2014. The couple now lives in Tokyo, Japan. "We miss you Palo Alto!" Nakajima said in a statement to the Weekly. The program pairs 32 middle school students — 16 from each of the two cities — who stay with a host family, tour the foreign country and shadow a fellow youth at their respective campuses. The program's 2020 and 2021 trips were canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, much to the disappointment of some Palo Alto students who had been anticipating the experience, according to board member Jennifer Buenrostro, vice president of Neighbors Abroad's Tsuchiura relationship. The Tsuchiura cohort usually comes to Palo Alto in March, and their Palo Alto buddies head over to Tsuchiura in June, Buenrostro said. The nonprofit hopes to begin recruiting this September and resume in 2022, if public health conditions allow. "This program really touches my heart. ... It's a really amazing opportunity," she said. "This will help ensure the existence of the program for the next at least few years." .The funds will help support chaperone expenses for Palo Altans visiting Tsuchiura, program activities and other costs. Tsuchiura, roughly 90 minutes north of Tokyo and known for its annual fireworks competition, became a Palo Alto sister city in 2009.

NEW LEADERSHIP ... A pair of local nonprofits have seen new leaders take the helm this month. On Feb. 9, DreamCatchers announced its new executive director, Gezel Frederick, who had been serving in the role in the interim. She joined the organization, which helps students become high school ready, in August as an education director. She previously served as the assistant director of Cayuga Centers Unaccompanied Migrant Children in New York. Gezel has a master's degree in education and taught in underserved communities for eight years. The national search was conducted by parents, volunteers and members of the nonprofit's board of directors. Carolina Hahn has stepped into the executive director role at Blossom Birth, a resource center in the California Avenue business district for pregnant women and new parents. Hahn became involved with the nonprofit while pregnant with her daughter and started offering yoga lessons at Blossom when her little girl turned a year old and soon after she was expecting her son. She rose up the ranks in the organization as a program manager in 2018, assistant director in 2020 and executive director this year.

SPREAD POSITIVE VIBES ... As the coronavirus crisis continues to unravel at home and around the world, we want to share positive stories from our readers for upcoming Around Town columns. Have you witnessed a random act of kindness or watched the community form bonds while maintaining a safe social distance? Or have you seen a creative project come about as many stay at home? Send us your story in 250 words or less by email to [email protected] Photos are also welcome. We look forward to hearing your stories!

Comments

A. Yamashita
Registered user
another community
on Feb 21, 2021 at 11:49 am
A. Yamashita, another community
Registered user
on Feb 21, 2021 at 11:49 am

This is a noteworthy goodwill gesture between our city and Palo Alto but I am wondering...given the pervasive racist attitudes of Palo Alto currently being described in the press, wouldn't it also be worthwhile for Palo Alto to consider establishing a sister city in Africa?


felix
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 21, 2021 at 5:21 pm
felix, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Feb 21, 2021 at 5:21 pm

It would be great to expand Palo Alto Sister City relationships to more continents such as Africa and Australia.

As to pervasive racism, anyone can say or write stuff to promote their personal agenda du jour, but that doesn’t make it true.


Tom DuBois
Registered user
Midtown
on Feb 21, 2021 at 6:02 pm
Tom DuBois, Midtown
Registered user
on Feb 21, 2021 at 6:02 pm

The Sister City donation is great news and thank you to Keiko Nakajima,and Yasuo Kishimoto. You did something very special that will be appreciated by chidren and families in both cities. In a place as diverse and multi-cultural as Palo Alto, these types of exchanges are highly valued.

To commentor "A. Yamashita", you are sadly misinformed.


Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
Registered user
Adobe-Meadow
on Feb 22, 2021 at 9:13 am
Resident 1-Adobe Meadows, Adobe-Meadow
Registered user
on Feb 22, 2021 at 9:13 am

If people are trying to initiate an new event based on a very generous action by others using a negative expression - A. Yamashita - racism - then you have not learned anything about how to continue generous actions by others. People are getting very tired of using the "racism" theme in this city because the intended result by people using that theme are looking for major financial and structural changes in how city governments work. They are looking for a financial payout of some type.


Michio Hiragami
Registered user
another community
on Feb 22, 2021 at 9:13 am
Michio Hiragami, another community
Registered user
on Feb 22, 2021 at 9:13 am

A. Yamashita wrote...

"...given the pervasive racist attitudes of Palo Alto currently being described in the press, wouldn't it also be worthwhile for Palo Alto to consider establishing a sister city in Africa?"

And Mayor Tom DuBois responded...

"To commentor "A. Yamashita", you are sadly misinformed."

felix was also quoted as saying...

"It would be great to expand Palo Alto Sister City relationships to more continents such as Africa..."

^ Would it not be beneficial for Palo Alto to openly welcome and sponsor a sizeable number of foreign exchange students from Africa and to reciprocate by sending some of its white high school students to study over there?

Since Palo Alto lauds itself as a global and humanitarian community, this educational and cultural measure could further enrich its role as such.


Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
Registered user
Adobe-Meadow
on Feb 22, 2021 at 9:19 am
Resident 1-Adobe Meadows, Adobe-Meadow
Registered user
on Feb 22, 2021 at 9:19 am

Palo Alto is a global community due to Stanford university. SU has foreign students from Africa who qualify with educational experience that is going to ensure that their stay here is successful. If nothing else let SU carry their weight in the foreign student endeavor.


Del Collins
Registered user
another community
on Feb 22, 2021 at 9:29 am
Del Collins, another community
Registered user
on Feb 22, 2021 at 9:29 am

I wouldn't go so far as to consider Palo Alto a racist community but the residents are a tad picky about who they choose to let in, given the city's past discriminatory real estate practices, the recent Foothills Park debate (aka objections to outside visitors), and overall resistance towards encouraging affordable housing developments to accommodate lower income people of color who actually work in their city.

Lastly and in response to Mr/Ms Hiragami...most Palo Alto parents would never even consider sending their children to study abroad in Africa.


Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
Registered user
Adobe-Meadow
on Feb 22, 2021 at 9:58 am
Resident 1-Adobe Meadows, Adobe-Meadow
Registered user
on Feb 22, 2021 at 9:58 am

Another contributor from "Another community", commenting on PA residents and racism. What city does Mr. Collins live in? People who use PA as a symbol of racism are practicing a form of extortion. I am sure that the city of others if divulged would display the same overall city requirements.

The governance of a city is a financial and management function regarding structural upkeep for water, sanitation, transportation, economic stability in the city regarding schools, health. People are spending their time going to meetings on those topics. That is a time consuming activity. Give credit to the city members who are working to maintain their homes and schools. And going to work to feed their families.


A. Washington
Registered user
East Palo Alto
on Feb 22, 2021 at 11:34 am
A. Washington, East Palo Alto
Registered user
on Feb 22, 2021 at 11:34 am

Palo Altans are not going to send their privileged white children to Africa for schooling or further cultural enlightenment.

Heck, they don't even want their kids venturing into East Palo Alto.

A. Yamashita brought up a valid point as one can see from as far away as Japan that Palo Alto is caught up in its own self-imageries.


Resident
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 22, 2021 at 12:06 pm
Resident, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Feb 22, 2021 at 12:06 pm

Given Palo Alto’s white population has been falling for 40 years and the city is now a third Asian, and growing, the “race” commentary should be more inclusive.

The obstacle to affordable housing is money, not people. Palo Alto has spent $40 million subsidizing affordable housing in the last five years. Any money you can find for this, send it to Alta Housing.


R. Cavendish
Registered user
another community
on Feb 22, 2021 at 12:17 pm
R. Cavendish, another community
Registered user
on Feb 22, 2021 at 12:17 pm

quote..."Given Palo Alto’s white population has been falling for 40 years and the city is now a third Asian, and growing, the “race” commentary should be more inclusive."

∆ That said and duly noted, I suspect that few recently-arrived Asian parents would be willing to send their kids off to Africa for extended schooling as well.

After all, didn't many of them choose Palo Alto for its excellent public school system?


Resident
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 22, 2021 at 12:30 pm
Resident, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Feb 22, 2021 at 12:30 pm

Parents of all ethnicities chase good schools, you don't have to be Asian to do that, any more than @A. Washington actually thinks anybody named "Yamashita" must live in Japan. You want to fix this the real answer is - send more money to Alta Housing.


edith hensley
Registered user
Crescent Park
on Feb 22, 2021 at 2:24 pm
edith hensley, Crescent Park
Registered user
on Feb 22, 2021 at 2:24 pm

as per Resident's previous post:

"Parents of all ethnicities chase good schools, you don't have to be Asian to do that,"

I believe this is true as only the wealthier communities tend to have above average public school systems. Though there are exceptions, more incoming tax revenue generally equates to a larger school district budget and Palo Alto is no exception.

It is difficult to imagine responsible parents in Palo Alto (regardless of their ethnicity or wealth) sending their school-aged children to Africa for a quality education due to its acredation deficiencies, questionable food, hot tropical weather, local diseases, threats of terrorism, and unstable governments.

I would never consider sending my children there and cannot fault Asian parents as well as white parents for having their apprehensions and fears at such a horrible thought.




Francisco DeLaCruz
Registered user
another community
on Feb 22, 2021 at 4:24 pm
Francisco DeLaCruz, another community
Registered user
on Feb 22, 2021 at 4:24 pm

I do not think that Palo Alto parents would want their children attending public schools in Latin America either.

Most would ostensibly cite their children's lack of proficiency in the Spanish language to cloud-cover their bigotry and ethnocentrism.

On the other hand, studying in Spain would be OK to them because upwardly-mobile types are generally caught-up in appearances and bragging rights.

Why else did so many moneyed white parents cheat and bribe to get their unqualified children admitted into fancy, big-name colleges?

Black and Hispanic parents do not resort to such tactics.


Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
Registered user
Adobe-Meadow
on Feb 22, 2021 at 7:03 pm
Resident 1-Adobe Meadows, Adobe-Meadow
Registered user
on Feb 22, 2021 at 7:03 pm

A. Washington - you are busy creating imageries. Go to high school, go to college, get a job. Haven't you noticed that EPA is in the process of gentrification? Nice new neighborhood behind the shopping center. Charter Schools. A great Target that everyone goes to. A Bay Trail connection. FB is going to create a village on Willow north of 101. Do you even pay attention to what is going on in the city you live in?


Estelle
Registered user
East Palo Alto
on Feb 23, 2021 at 6:39 am
Estelle , East Palo Alto
Registered user
on Feb 23, 2021 at 6:39 am

Resident 1-Adobe Meadows writes:

Haven't you noticed that EPA is in the process of gentrification?

Do you even pay attention to what is going on in the city you live in?


Yes. East Palo Alto is currently in a redevelopment stage making the community more palatable to white shoppers who will later move into the nicer new residential developments forcing many below-income wage earners and renters out (aka people of color) of their own community.

One does not need a pair of binoculars or to attend high school or college to acknowledge the work of the devil.


Frank DelPilar
Registered user
East Palo Alto
on Feb 23, 2021 at 7:53 am
Frank DelPilar, East Palo Alto
Registered user
on Feb 23, 2021 at 7:53 am

Resident 1-Adobe Meadows is a registered user.

- you are busy creating imageries.

∆ No. You are the one creating imageries Resident 1-Adobe Meadows and it reaks of white privilege and an elitist mindset.

Did you ever visit or shop EPA pre-gentrification?

And your stating (in another post) that wealthy African Americans such as Oprah Winfrey do not need stimulus checks or reparations for historical wrongdoings is missing the point entirely.

It's no wonder that Palo Alto is garnering an even worse reputation for its social insensitivities and ethnocentrism.

If East Palo Alto is striving to model itself after the likes of current Palo Alto then 'Houston, we have a problem'.

But all things considered, the demographics of Palo Alto are changing with the added influx of wealthy Asian residents and the cultural and ethnic impacts remain to be seen.


Robert Megumi
Registered user
another community
on Feb 23, 2021 at 8:45 am
Robert Megumi, another community
Registered user
on Feb 23, 2021 at 8:45 am

A Resident 1-Adobe Meadows quotation:

"Another contributor from "Another community", commenting on PA residents and racism."


I am a former resident and Palo Alto has always been a racist community albeit a subtle one.

I grew up in Palo Alto during the mid 1950s through early 1970s.

Palo Alto always appeared to be a progressive community providing minorities 'kept their place' by not rocking the boat and challenging the various white people in positions of economic power.

My father was a gardner and it pained me to witness him kow-towing to his white employers just to put food on the table and make payments on a modest home in South Palo Alto where minorities were relegated to reside.

African Americans also acquiesced to white Palo Alto residents regardless of whether the whites were wealthy or not.

It was all an illusion of a Leave It to Beaver type community as deep down inside, a majority of Japanese Americans and African Americans of multiple generations did not trust white people given what had transpired in the past (e.g. forced internment during World War Two and slavery).

And some of the younger generations (including myself) still don't trust them.

The African American descendents of slaves should receive government reparations and the recommended $400,000.00 is a mere pittance given what many of their ancestors had to endure at the hands of both the ruthless plantation owners and post Civil War discriminatory practices.

So yes, this a comment from an 'out of towner' who now resides elsewhere but who also spent a considerable portion of his life in Palo Alto.

And countless white people raving about and gorging themselves on sushi and sashimi (as if they themselves invented it) does not erase the pervasive and lingering racism that persists today.


Alvin Klepper
Registered user
another community
on Feb 23, 2021 at 9:24 am
Alvin Klepper, another community
Registered user
on Feb 23, 2021 at 9:24 am

Perhaps Resident 1 from Adobe Meadows is only viewing the overall picture from one side of the coin.

This is a common practice as many people only believe or see what they choose to.

Governments can legislate laws pertaining to equality but it is impossible to do the same with personal prejudices or one's inherent lack of perspectives.

I think this is the real issue with Palo Alto and it's growing reputation as a racist community.

Thus the NAACP and the ACLU finally had to address this subtle bigotry and bring it to the public's attention with the Foothills Park issue.



Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
Registered user
Adobe-Meadow
on Feb 23, 2021 at 1:10 pm
Resident 1-Adobe Meadows, Adobe-Meadow
Registered user
on Feb 23, 2021 at 1:10 pm

WE have some people commenting here from the city of Oakland. My son's family lives in Oakland. My DOL works for the county of Alameda in the city of Oakland. My niece works for the Oakland school system. I probably know more about the city of Oakland than the posters who are single focused on their particular agenda vs the overall agenda of the city, school system, fire department, and state and federal services who are doling out money.

The Asian population in that city is getting hit hard - a overt racial situation. During the fires kids were in the hills setting off firecrackers.
I unfortunately know something about what other cities are experiencing. Recognize that some posters have a specific agenda and single minded in expressing that agenda. As though their city has no problems. Throwing stones at glass houses.


Tristan Thompson
Registered user
another community
on Feb 23, 2021 at 4:21 pm
Tristan Thompson, another community
Registered user
on Feb 23, 2021 at 4:21 pm

"...given the pervasive racist attitudes of Palo Alto currently being described in the press, wouldn't it also be worthwhile for Palo Alto to consider establishing a sister city in Africa?"

Why go as far as Africa when there are many African American communities, neighborhoods and districts throughout the United States?

Palo Alto could simply establish ties with one (or more) of them and invite their civic leaders and children into their homes and schools.

Meanwhile white PTA parents in Palo Alto and the PAUSD could create inner-city student exchange programs where they send their children to various black homes and public schools in DC, Watts/Compton, Detroit, Harlem, and South Chicago.


Avery Sommerville
Registered user
Menlo Park
on Feb 24, 2021 at 9:07 am
Avery Sommerville, Menlo Park
Registered user
on Feb 24, 2021 at 9:07 am

I suspect that the majority of Palo Alto parents would oppose any inner-city student exchange program.

Given the recent park issue, many still seem to be in denial of their private and personal inner-racisms.


R. Cavendish
Registered user
another community
on Feb 24, 2021 at 11:26 am
R. Cavendish, another community
Registered user
on Feb 24, 2021 at 11:26 am

Amazing how Palo Alto has become the poster child for clandestine systemic racism.

Then again, actions (or lack of) tends to speak louder than words or outraged denial.


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