in Japan

Building Community

While COVID-19 has caused many students to be overwhelmed by a state of helplessness, it has also encouraged many to take initiative and be the change they want to see. We asked the president and vice president of the 2020-2021 high school student council to share how they have seen fellow students build community during this time. Here is what they said: 

Students have worked to build community both within and beyond the CAJ campus. A great example of this is a project led by five sophomores. In order to raise awareness about the local businesses in Higashikurume affected by the pandemic, they chose to start the COVID Response Project, organizing events for students and staff to support a community member’s restaurant, Ruchira.

Even on a smaller scale, students are doing their best to make the most of their situation. To continue socializing with their classmates after the school day, the seniors have created a “senior virtual lounge,” an online chat that includes every member of the class. During their week-long break from school because of COVID cases at CAJ early in the school year, many seniors laughed, talked, and bonded over a mobile game for hours with people they normally wouldn’t have had many opportunities to talk with at school. 

The limited time to be on campus with friends has actually encouraged a tight-knit community among those who live near each other. Many students find themselves going home with the same people at the same time each day, and this has created its own special bond. While students’ lives are usually dictated by their rigorous co-curricular schedules, this break from activities (especially during the State of Emergency) has formed new friendships that can continue even after a return to normal routines.

In particular, the Student Council has worked to emphasize community-building this year through our projects and events. For example, we’ve held two spirit weeks in order to boost morale and highlight unity within the CAJ community. Through these, we created the opportunity for students to plan matching outfits with their friends and their class. Throughout both weeks, students took pictures with one another and got together to show off their great costumes.

Additionally, we endeavored to capture memories by handing out a disposable camera to each class representative to take pictures of their classmates. After the cameras ran out of film, we got the pictures developed and posted them on a bulletin board in the hallway. Having the pictures up where students can see them easily serves as a reminder that, even during the COVID-19 pandemic, we are able to make memories and have great experiences. 

We also acknowledged the importance of sharing accomplishments and supporting those participating in co-curricular activities by hosting a virtual pep rally during homeroom. We showcased sports highlights, musical performances, speech festival submissions, and artwork. Under normal circumstances, this celebration of accomplishments is usually done in-person; but, since this was impossible this year, the Student Council worked to engender Knights pride through this project.

At the end of the day, what brings many of us together is our bond forged through grief because of what we’ve lost this past year. There’s a sense of solidarity that’s been formed in this community because of COVID-19; we are truly all in this together. This, in turn, has helped us to become more understanding of the circumstances of others and allowed us to appreciate the little things in life that we get to have together. This year, we’ve strengthened our community, supporting and building each other up just by relating to each other’s hardships. We hope that, even after the pandemic passes, we’ll be able to carry this sense of unity with us wherever we go.  

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