Softbank to send 100 Japanese students to UC Berkeley to learn civic leadership

Photo by Natalie Orenstein,
Photo by Natalie Orenstein,, 2012

Softbank (TSE:9984) has announced the continuation of its Tomodachi program for 2013, an initiative to send Japanese high school students from areas most affected by the 2011 earthquake to UC Berkeley for a three-week intensive leadership course.

Funded by Softbank and administered by the San Francisco non-profit Ayusa International, the program will see 100 students participate this upcoming summer. Students focus on four areas: housing, business and jobs, public spaces, and energy and sustainability, working with assistants from Japan and UC Berkeley.

The idea is that students will take what they learn in this program about civic responsibility and community development, and then apply it at home in order to help their respective communities rebuild.

Haruna Shiraiwa, a participating student from last year’s program helped start sight-seeing tours in her hometown of Iwaki, working with travel agency H.I.S., in the hopes of bringing more visitors to the area.

Of course it remains to be seen how much of a tangible difference this program can make in rebuilding regions affected by the earthquake. But ostensibly Softbank CEO Masayoshi Son, whose own formative years came while studying abroad at UC Berkeley, believes in the potential of such cultural exchanges.

For students who wish to participate in the 2013 Tomodachi program, applications are being accepted here.