Ten students from Gilroy High School, Christopher High School and the Dr. TJ Owens Early College Academy (GECA) are wrapping up the trip of a lifetime 5,000 miles across the Pacific Ocean.
Known as GSTEP, the popular Gilroy-Takko Student Exchange Program allows GUSD students to become enmeshed in Japanese culture, traditions and lifestyles, while strengthening a transcontinental relationship and forming new friendships with Gilroy’s sister city in Takko-Machi, Japan. This is the third year GTSEP has been in existence, as exchanges made prior to this took place solely with the Gilroy High School Chamber Choir beginning in 1989. Takko students started coming to Gilroy a number of years later. GUSD Choir Director Phil Robb explains GTSEP came about as he felt the need to expand the opportunities for high school students to visit Japan.
“Instead of just choir students traveling, we, (my wife) and I, wanted to open the door for any student that wanted to apply and put in the effort to prepare and go,” he explained.
Seven students made the trip in 2011.
To get into the program, students have to obtain letters of recommendations, write their own letter and fill out applications. They’re also financially responsible for funding 60 percent of the cost of their own trip. In months prior, they are polished and prepped as Garlic Capital ambassadors in monthly training sessions that cover Japanese custom, culture and language.
“I am so excited about the quality of kids this year,” said Robb, who had more than 20 students apply.
The students are scheduled to come home Thursday evening.
Want to learn more or get involved? Visit GSTEP’s official website.