Soga Center receives Champs awardWestern Michigan University’s Michitoshi Soga Japan Center was one of eight recipients of the 2015 Communities in Schools of Kalamazoo Champs award, which recognizes individual volunteers, teachers and other KPS staff who help the district create successful partnerships. Michiko Yoshimoto, SJC outreach coordinator, and Dr. Stephen Covell, chair of WMU’s Department of Comparative Religions and founding director of the Soga Japan Center, attended the May 19 ceremony honoring the awardees.
The award recognized the efforts of Yoshimoto, who has been volunteering in the KPS district since 2013 to help students broaden their understanding of Japanese language and culture. Yoshimoto visited district classrooms more than 30 times over the last academic year to give presentations on origami, Japanese calligraphy, using chopsticks, martial arts, mask making, song and dance, as well as giving workshops on basic Japanese greetings and letters.
Yoshimoto came to Western in August 2009 as part of a Japan Outreach Initiative program to promote awareness and understanding of Japan in Michigan. The Soga Japan Center hired Yoshimoto while she was in graduate school to serve as the center’s outreach coordinator—a position that transitioned to full-time in 2014. She completed a master’s degree in socio-cultural studies of education in April 2014.
In her work for the SJC, Yoshimoto is focused on developing and facilitating Japanese culture and language programs for local K-12 schools, libraries, museums, companies, sister-city committees, and other organizations within the state and region. She also maintains the SJC’s network of relationships on and off campus, including serving as the focal point for communications between the SJC and the Battle Creek Japanese Saturday School.
For more information about the Soga Japan Center, call (269) 387-5874 .