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March 29, 2011 > Japan crisis sparks MSJHS students into action

Japan crisis sparks MSJHS students into action

Story and Photos by Aishwarya Thakur

As the first news of the Japanese crisis started trickling in on the night of March 10, many around the world felt helpless with worry and concern for their fellow Japanese friends and relatives. Mission San Jose High School's Japanese classes immediately took action to help the afflicted country by promoting awareness and raising funds around its campus.

Japanese language teacher Julia Madsen and her classes of Japanese students organized this effort and at once got started on making 1,000 paper cranes to sell, setting up a benefit concert and organizing a rally. Students held "read-meets," or went class-to-class to advertise to the student body about the origami cranes, as well as Japanese bracelets that they were selling at lunch and after school every day of the week. Wishes and prayers could also be written, which were intended to be hung on a tree for the winds to carry them to Japan. Cranes and well-wishing notes were then mailed to a high school in Sendai, Japan. Students were following a Japanese custom of making 1,000 cranes for good luck and peace. Along with the goal of sending 1,000 cranes, they also planned to donate $1,000 to the American Red Cross. Fortunately, they made $650 on the first day, and eventually earned $2,580. Mrs. Madsen said, "The students weren't really interested in what we were selling; they just felt so much compassion and wanted to do what they could for the Japanese people."

Out of the $2,580 raised, $1,300 was earned by the benefit concert. A total of 26 acts were presented. Everyone was welcome to attend the concert and donations were voluntary. The audience was moved to tears as a slideshow, created by Japanese 2 student Alex Credo, presented "before and after" images of Japan, as well as successful rescue stories. A moment of silence then recognized those suffering in Japan. Mariko Okamura, also a Japanese teacher, said in response to the concert, "The music that was played held a lot of feeling. I could hear the feeling in the performances and in the music that the [performers] chose. I was so sad all week, but I was encouraged by all the students. I didn't offer any extra credit to help out in the events. Everything was based on the students' feelings."

In their ongoing efforts to promote awareness, Juniors Keith Lewis, Sean Wang, and Patrick Yang organized a rally, "Honk for Japan," that was held March 21 at 6:30 a.m. Lewis said, "We really want people to realize what's going on with the tsunami, earthquake and nuclear reactors. More than 18,000 are dead and it's deeper than just the radiation problems." The students made signs that urged drivers to honk to support those involved in the crisis. Wang said, "Most people are worried about the radiation problems here, but there are people in Japan living right next to the [reactors]. It's worse there."

Donations are still being accepted and many other clubs at MSJHS have also been collecting funds. A ceremony is being planned to formally present the American Red Cross with the $2,580 check, which was raised just five days after their efforts began and surpassed the Japanese students' wish of raising $1,000.

If you would like to donate to the American Red Cross relief efforts in Japan, visit their website at

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