Saturday, April 9, 2016

Monday, April 4

Anticipation.  Not knowing what to expect. Child like emotions.  Fear.  Shame.  Anger. Justification.

After waking early and running the treadmill, trying to shake off any unwanted feelings, I went into a time of self.  Taking my time to get ready to go, not wanting to be rushed, we all tried to meet but my rebellion kicked in and decided to do my own thing.  Everyone else met up in the lobby and traveled together but Chuck and I took our time and traveled alone to the campus.  We met up with Martha and Yuki at Musashi-Sakae and took  a cab to the school.

When I attended ASIJ, if it was raining, we (my friends and I) always took a cab from Musashi-Sakae.  It was 230 yen in the 70's.

We arrived at the school and were met by the guard at the gate needing to see our identification and reason for visiting the school. Once we were allowed to enter, we were escorted to the third floor of the cafeteria building into a private waiting room and provided with snacks and coffee.

Board Chair Brian Johnson, Board member Paul Wedderien and ASIJ Director of Advancement Erin Nelson together prepared the way for an incredible day.  We first met with the current Head of School Ed Ladd.  Many of you who are reading this know our relationship with Ed Ladd.  It began as a contentious relationship and for some ended that way.

Of the "thirteen sisters" there were ten of us there. There was a large conference table with chairs around for all.  Although Ed and everyone else sat, not knowing what to expect, I chose to stand the entire time he was in the room.  It gave me a feeling of strength and control. He entered the room reluctantly and expressed his feelings of such.

Ed thanked us for coming, expressed that he was thankful that we were there and apologized to us. His apology and explanation were taken differently by each of the 10 sisters present.  Some questioned his sincerity, some flat out rejected it and others chose to accept it for what ever it was worth.  We each had our own reactions, rightfully so, and responded to it based upon our own receptiveness.

I don't know if Ed Ladd was sincere with his apology.  It's not my responsibility to determine his sincerity.  He did admit that he thought the first letter sent out in March of 2014 was an apology but quickly realized that it wasn't after the response to the letter.  He said that if he had it to do over, he would not have taken the advise of others.  He also stated that after later going through several seminars/conferences on the subject that he would have done things differently.  My personal response is to accept his apology and not make a judgement about his sincerity.  I am very capable of making judgments, so this is not about my righteousness, just my position.

After we met with Ed, we were led to another location to meet with the Student Council.  To our dismay, students upon students began entering into the room until it was packed.  Not only did the Student Council show up but many high school students who were interested in hearing from us and were interested in asking questions.  Many of the 10 sisters spoke, answering questions and expressing their views on sexual abuse.  Since most of the students were seniors there was a lot of discussion of college campus rape, since 30% of university students are subject to non-consenting sex. The students and the sisters were engaged in a needed discussion and we all felt it was a successful time together

We then went to the Multi-purpose room (MPR) to participate in the first Strength and Courage Award celebration.  The first annual Strength and Courage Award was presented to Sophie Kusaba, an ASIJ senior the daughter of ASIJ alumni Elaine Scolinos, class of 76.

From Japan Times:  Sofie created an outreach program called “Nagomi Art” to work with people with mental disabilities in the local area. In her work, Sofie merged her creative skills and passion for art by designing artistic activities to carry out with the participants. “I already knew of the mental health benefits of art, and how happy I feel after creating something, so I believed that art could bring happiness to them as well. My dreams were big, but I envisioned that art could rejuvenate,” Sofie wrote in her essay. Her activities proved to be so successful that Sofie expanded by recruiting additional volunteers to help her meet the demand. A year and a half later, there are now 126 members in the volunteer group. In addition to the strength and courage she demonstrated in launching an initiative outside the structure of any existing club or organization, Sofie showed tremendous compassion and commitment to helping others. Sofie plans to attend the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) next year, where she is looking forward to developing her artistic talent even further.

It was an incredible opportunity to be a part of the first award given to an ASIJ student who showed extraordinary consideration for others. Sophie was gracious and deserving of the award.   It was a privilege to be a part of such a monumental day.

We then met with the school counselors from elementary, middle and high school.  There was a tremendous amount of discussion about abuse and we all shared our own perspectives about what to look for in a student who may be subjected to child sexual abuse.  After this session we had lunch with teachers and counselors who were interested in meeting us and talking with us individually about our stories.

After lunch we met with the Child Protection Task Force and finally culminated the day with parents of current students in the school.  Meeting with the parents was quite emotional.  Most of them were younger than us and have students in the school ranging from Kindergarten to Seniors in High School.  The day could not have been set up better.  We were given the opportunity to speak with everyone who was interested and representatives from ASIJ were so welcoming and loving that we all left with a feeling of complete restitution.  We could not have asked for more.

More to come on the next few days, particularly the reception.

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