The season of HLAB (1) has come. HLAB started in 2011 in the summer after the Great Northeastern Japan Earthquake and Tsunami and this is the fourth year that the program has been running. This year it started on August 15th, which also marks the 69th anniversary of the end of World War II.
University students who have participated in HLAB in the past, including those who were enrolled in the program as high school students, were in charge of planning the program. It must have been challenging as some of them conducted the planning from universities abroad but the project took off successfully.
The opening day was held at GRIPS, as it had been last year. From there, the HLAB program kicked off for nine days and eight nights. This year, I was chosen to speak at the opening ceremony. The theme for the students was “the future of the world and your choices” but I imagined that many of the high school students were quite nervous, so I tried to cheer them on by noting the fact that forty percent of the high school students who were enrolled in this program in past years applied to and were accepted by universities abroad and that I looked forward to seeing how the students this year will be at the end of the nine-day program.
This year, Minoru Ben Makihara of Mitsubishi Corporation, who attended Harvard University as an undergraduate and has supported HLAB from the very beginning, gave a remarkable speech on his time as a student studying abroad sixty-five years ago.
I looked forward to the rest of the program and enjoyed the “Reflection” at the lodge where the students and I had discussions until 11pm.
This year, we had a special guest, Tatekawa Shinoharu (in Japanese), who is an alumnus of Yale University and gave a performance of “English rakugo” at GRIPS on the 12th. It was an amazing and enjoyable performance.
On the last day, Saturday the 23rd, we returned to GRIPS once more. Professor Hirotaka Takeuchi of Harvard University also joined us. At the closing ceremony, everyone cried and it was a very memorable and moving experience.
In my speech at the closing ceremony, I had the privilege of pointing out that it is experiences such as these that are the moments we remember throughout our lives and are the truly important things in life.
The spirit of education is giving back or ‘virtuous cycle, a sense of each own’s gratitude’ (in Japanese) and this was exemplified through the HLAB alumni who returned as university students to eagerly support the next generation of high school students.
The founder of HLAB, Mr. Kobayashi, graduated from Harvard University and has returned to lead HLAB 2014 in Tokushima, which took place at the same time as the one in Tokyo. It is quite an impressive feat to have come this far.