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Japanese Outreach Program to conduct virtual classes with middle school in Nagasaki, Japan

Marshall University’s Japanese Outreach Program will conduct a virtual classroom with middle school students from the Higashi-Sonogi Middle School in Nagasaki, Japan, Tuesday, Feb. 8 and Thursday, Feb. 17.

Thanks to unique connections and innovative ideas, the Japanese Outreach Program will conduct its first virtual classroom. The middle school students will introduce their hometown in the English they’ve learned, while participating Marshall University students will introduce West Virginia to the Japanese middle school students.

The idea for the virtual classroom originated last fall when Marshall students received handwritten letters from the 8th grade students at Higashi-Sonogi Middle School. Taught by Mioko Nagai and Kyle Waffles, a Marshall alumnus residing in Japan teaching English, the students sent messages hoping to make friends a world away while being limited on their ability to receive world experience during the pandemic era. Educators in Japan, much like locally, have struggled to educate students during the pandemic, but saw an opportunity first with letters and now with a virtual classroom to provide Japanese students and Marshall students with a unique opportunity to experience a different part of the world, while in their homeland.

The Marshall University Japanese Outreach program was born out of Marshall University partnering with Laurasian to welcome Japanese Outreach initiatives (JOIs) to introduce Japanese culture to Huntington and the surrounding communities. The Laurasian institution is a not-for-profit educational organization, specializing in exchange and educational programs since 1990. The purpose of the program is to encourage cultural exposure and deepen understanding of different cultures.

Akiko Praylow is the Japanese outreach coordinator at Marshall University. She says the virtual classes are a great opportunity to expose Japanese students to West Virginia and America, while also helping local students learn about the Japanese culture.

“The virtual classroom will bring us new possibilities,” Praylow said. “Everything seems so uncertain nowadays, but this event is a new hope. JOIs have provided small cultural events in the past, but the virtual classroom like this will allow me to approach the communities in different ways. The upcoming ones will lead more great opportunities to come, and I hope Marshall, City of Huntington, and West Virginia can have even closer relationship with Japan.”

With support from Dr. Natsuki Anderson, chair of the Department of Modern Languages and Ryan Lidster, an instructor of Japanese, the virtual classrooms bring great new possibilities. Previous Japanese outreach initiatives have organized cooking classes, conducted Japanese language classes and made culture presentations in classrooms throughout the region. For more information about the Japanese Outreach Program or the virtual classrooms, Praylow can be reached by e-mail at