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A Mile High JETAA USA NatCon

The 2018 JETAA USA National Conference took place in mid-September in “the Mile High City”, Denver, Colorado, hosted by the Rocky Mountain chapter.



The event was a huge success thanks to the support of CLAIR, MOFA, USJETAA, JETAARM, and many volunteers. NatCon, as it is now commonly known, was attended by over 50 people, including chapter delegates, Country Representatives from the US and Canada, and distinguished guests from CLAIR, MOFA and USJETAA. This year’s theme was, “What is the value of your chapter to the community”, and we had many presentations on this, along with how to build membership, enhance digital outreach, and strengthen the financial future of the chapters. Every delegate also presented on the current status of their chapter.


The conference started on Thursday evening with an informal Welcome Happy Hour hosted by USJETAA. Delegates used this as an opportunity to meet on a social level, exchange stories from their time on JET, and share what is happening in their local chapters.

The two and a half day conference started on Friday morning at 9:00 AM, with welcome remarks from a diverse group of participants. Adam Lisbon, JETAARM President, opened the conference with his enthusiastic welcome to Colorado and set the tone for everyone to have a fun time during our visit, while he also took a moment to reflect on a very active and beloved JET alumnus who passed away recently in the Pacific Northwest chapter. Hiroaki Isobe, Executive Consultant at CLAIR Tokyo, traveled very far to be at this conference. He shared his interest in learning about the JETAA USA chapters, and he thanked them for their support for the flood relief efforts in Western Japan. Next we heard from Kotaro Oe, First Secretary at the Embassy of Japan, who traveled from Washington, DC, and touched on the fact that the JET Program is one of the world’s most successful foreign exchange programs. He encouraged us to continue to work together so this program continues to be successful. Paige Cottingham-Streater, Chair of USJETAA, provided a pre-recorded welcoming message, since she was unable to attend in person. She shared the things that USJETAA has in the works for JETAA members. Monica Yuki, JETAA USA Country Representative, wrapped up by thanking everyone for coming, and informed us that we would have a packed schedule of speakers, activities and receptions.


The morning included the traditional omiyage exchange, with each chapter bringing something edible from their region, a keynote speech delivered by Tom Kelly on behalf of Congresswoman Diana Degette, US Representative from Colorado's 1st Congressional District, who was unable to attend, and a presentation by Bahia Simons-Lane, Director of USJETAA, our national nonprofit umbrella organization. The focus of the presentation was Strengthening the Network: Building USJETAA. Ms. Simons-Lane shared the history of USJETAA and their various partner organizations that support the chapters and individual members. She also shared a recap of the very successful JET30 All Alumni Reunion celebrating the 30th anniversary of the JET Program, held in August 2017.


Mark Frey, JETAA USA Country Representative, then talked about Unlocking the Global JETAA Network: KenJETkai & Sister Chapter Programs, followed by a presentation on Bridging TOMODACHI Spirit: Career Opportunities, by Emily Freeman, former JETAARM President, who works for the City and County of Denver, speaking about leveraging exchange opportunities for career development.


The morning finished up with an informative discussion on Communicating with Everyone: How Our Digital Outreach is Engaging the Community, by Patrick Finn, Marketing Coordinator for JETAA Chicago, and a session on Connecting with the Community through Events, presented by Dustin Henrich, President of JETAA Heartland.


After lunch, there was a JETAA International Update, from Matthew Gillam, a member of the JETAA International Board of Advisors, and a JETAA Canada Update, presented by Dustin Reimer, the JETAA Canada Country Representative.


Next came a discussion on JETAA USA National Initiatives, with Faye Valtadoros & Monica Yuki, Country Representatives, and Matthew Gillam, JLGC New York, which included initiatives such as the creation of post-graduate scholarship agreements for alumni with schools around the US, the creation or revamping of Facebook groups like the one for chapter officers, and activities undertaken by various chapters but that are open to other chapters to join in, such as the cross-chapter ski trips organized by New England and Rocky Mountain.


The day finished with six chapters presenting on events that leverage special features of their chapter and ones that, conversely, could be hosted by anyone.

The Consulate General of Japan in Denver generously hosted a reception that evening at the Consul General’s residence, although, unfortunately, they were currently between CGs.

Saturday began with a session by Satoshi Kuroki and Shinori Nagasawa from JLGC New York presenting on Everything You Ever Needed to Know About GiA, But Were Afraid to Ask, followed by Virginia Kreisle and Greg Shuneman from JETAA Minnesota talking about Building Chapter Reserve Funds.


These were followed by Strengthening Chapter Leadership and Membership, by Brenda McKinney, President of JETAA New York, The JETs: A Mountain West-Side Story, by Adam Lisbon, and JETwit and the Past, Present, and Future of the JET Alumni Community, by Steven Horowitz, the founder of JETwit.com and member of the JETAA USA Board of Advisors.


Funding opportunities were then presented and explained in presentations by Bahia Simons-Lane on USJETAA Grants and Chapter Visits, and Joy Champaloux, Program Officer for Education Programs at the Sasakawa Peace Foundation USA, talking about the Sasakawa USA / USJETAA Mini-Grant Program. This led to a break-out session for  small groups to discuss ideas for proposals that would qualify for these mini-grants.

Chapter presentations were interspersed throughout the day, and the evening finished with a CLAIR sponsored reception at the Wynkoop Brewery and a fun scavenger hunt, organized by JETAARM.


Sunday morning was mainly devoted to the remaining eight chapter presentations, followed by the results of Saturday night’s scavenger hunt, a souvenir exchange, and a brief discussion on cross-chapter collaboration. The conference then finished with closing remarks by JETAARM and the JETAA USA Country Representatives.


Overall, this was another successful conference, enriched by having the Canada Rep participate again, which has encouraged more efforts at cross-border collaboration in recent years, and by having strong participation by all US chapters. A lot of information was shared, lots of discussions were had, and many connections were made.


Detailed information, including delegates, presentations, and schedules, can be found at https://jetaausa.com/conferences/2018-national-conference/.

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