A Spring Lake Park High School sophomore has been named the recipient of a six-week full scholarship to Japan.
Friday the 13th of April was a lucky day for Jessica Borgert, 16, of Blaine.
That’s when she learned she was one of 14 students nationwide selected to visit Japan this summer as part of a Youth For Understanding (YFU) exchange program. The cultural exchange trip is sponsored by the Kikkoman Corp. in partnership with the national FCCLA (Family, Career and Community Leaders of America).
This is Borgert’s second year as an FCCLA member.
Borgert learned of her selection when her mother reminded her that she had mail after she had been home for about two hours.
A package caught her attention, but Borgert figured it was literature from a college.
When she opened it, she found a T-shirt. Under the T-shirt was the letter stating she had won the scholarship.
“I had to read it and reread it several times to make sure it was real,” Borgert said.
“I started screaming and running upstairs to post it on Facebook.”
School in Japan
The second week in June, Borgert will fly to California where she will attend a training session for three days. Then, it’s off to an undesignated city in Japan. (A location had yet to be decided on as this issue went to press.)
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While in Japan, she will live with a host family, attend school, participate in family activities, visit historical sites and take trips with the family.
“I hope to get to see a lot more of the world,” Borgert said. “To see other people’s view points, to see their history, their temples, instead of just pictures.”
When Jessica returns she will make presentations to school and community groups on her Japan experience.
This is the first time a student of SLP High School FCCLA advisor Lori Henry has been selected for the scholarship to Japan.
“Jessica is a very good speaker and is able to think quickly on her feet,” Henry said. “She is poised and confident. She is a good communicator and I think that is one of Jessica’s strongest skills that will help her in Japan. These strong skills will help her as she shares what her life is like in the United States and on her return.”
Borgert first heard about the cultural exchange program last year as a freshman when she attended the FCCLA national convention in Anaheim, Calif. While there, she heard a fellow organization member speak of her experiences in Japan. She kept the idea in the back of her mind.
The application process took Borgert about a week to complete. She was balancing school, band and volleyball practice at the time. Among requirements, she wrote five short essays what her relationship is like with her family, for example.
Another essay question asked why she wanted to be a part of the cultural exchange program.
She wanted to follow in her mentor’s footsteps, she wrote. That would be her grandfather. While her mother was about Borgert’s age, she had the opportunity to visit Japan with her father, Victor Perman, a veterinarian and much sought-after speaker. Japan was one of the places he spoke.
“I always wanted to travel around the world like they did,” Borgert said.
As part of the application process, Borgert also supplied photos of herself in activities that best described her. She chose pictures while on a mission trip to Montana. Other pictures portrayed her playing volleyball and vacationing with her family in Jamaica, to name a few. The Jamaican trip last year was her first time out of the country.
Band, history are favorites
Borgert attended Woodcrest Elementary, Westwood Intermediate and Middle schools.
She is now enrolled in the following courses at SLP High School: pre calculus, advanced placement (AP) U.S. history, honors language arts, AP biology, Spanish III and concert band. She plays the bass clarinet and considers band and history her favorite classes.
While at middle school, she won a President’s Award twice and in eighth grade, she won the school’s geography bee.
She thinks about pursuing a career in forensics science in the future. “I really like the mystery of it,” she said. “I love chemistry.”
As for being an FCCLA member, the organization has helped her become more of a leader, she said. More of a volunteer.
“It’s kind of like a mini family really,” she said. “You know people in there. You can trust them. Rely on them.”
And as for what to some would seem a rather ominous day, Borgert looks at it from a different perspective.
“Friday the 13th is my luckiest day,” she said.
According to the YFU website, “Today, YFU is one of the world’s oldest, largest, and most respected international educational exchange programs. Since 1951, YFU organizations around the world have exchanged close to 250,000 students. In one year alone, approximately 4,000 students will participate in YFU programs worldwide.”
Elyse Kaner is at firstname.lastname@example.org