FALLS CHURCH, Va. – Dec. 19, 2018 – Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE: NOC) sponsored three young Japanese individuals with disabilities to attend the TOMODACHI Disability Leadership Program in America at the University of Massachusetts (UMass) Boston. The program, which is in its third year, offers the participants a four-month training experience in leadership and advocacy.
Running from early August to mid-December, the program is part of the TOMODACHI Initiative, which invests in the next generation of Japanese and American leaders through educational, cultural and leadership programs. After a one-month introduction to the program and life in Boston, trainees pursue independent projects related to disability through an internship with a disability-focused government agency or community organization. They also attend weekly leadership seminars and take English classes at UMass Boston. Trainees stay with host families to deepen their experience of American life and culture.
The trainees come from a wide variety of backgrounds and interest areas. Tomoshige Kabetani obtained his doctorate at the Osaka University Graduate School of Dentistry. He has extensive disability leadership experience, both personally and professionally. Kabetani led workshops on disability and universal design in dental healthcare practice for graduate students, faculty and staff at his university. In addition to his academics, Kabetani is an accomplished wheelchair rugby player.
As a trainee, Kabetani was interested in learning about adaptive sports in the U.S. He interned with Northeast Passage, an organization that is part of the University of New Hampshire and specializes in innovative, barrier-free recreation and health promotion programming. Kabetani also joined the Wildcats, New Hampshire’s wheelchair rugby team, and trained and competed with the team for four months both nationally and internationally.
Keiji Oka is a second-year economics and journalism student at the International Christian University in Tokyo. As a writer for the university’s media club, he observed diversity and inclusion initiatives in the U.S., and how to report on disability issues in a sensible and ethical manner.
Oka interned with the Asian American Studies Program at UMass Boston, where he learned about the process and techniques of digital storytelling. For his project, Oka interviewed members of a Boston-based Japanese parent disability support group and created a five-minute-long movie or “digital story” that he presented at the program award ceremony.
“I shifted my attitude and perspective from viewing disability as a personal issue I had to deal with to a social issue in which I wanted to be involved,” said Oka. “As an international journalist, I strongly wish to work globally on disability issues to contribute to this social movement in the future.”
Kana Takahashi studied child development at Fukuoka Jo-Gakuinn University. After graduation, she lived in Canada, working at a daycare program and learning about Canada’s policies and practices related to inclusion of children with disabilities. As a trainee, Takahashi, who was born with a visual impairment, hoped to increase her knowledge about early childhood development, disability and inclusion.
Takahashi interned with the Department of Early Intervention at Boston Children’s Hospital. There, she observed early intervention services provided to children and their families as part of home visits and community play group sessions. Reflecting on her experience, Takahashi said, “Our weekly leadership seminars and Boston life with other fellow trainees gave me opportunities to reflect on my own disability identity and leadership by sharing different perspectives and opinions.”
The three trainees presented their final projects at an award ceremony held on Nov. 28. “It was great to hear about their trainee experiences and how they will use what they learned to make a positive impact after they return to Japan,” said Samantha Yang, a workplace accommodations manager at Northrop Grumman, who attended the event.
In October 2018, Northrop Grumman was selected as a Leading Disability Employer by the National Organization on Disability for the third year in row. The company was recognized for its leadership in disability hiring and its commitment to building a disability inclusive workforce. In August 2018, the company received the highest ranking for the fourth year in a row on the Disability Equality Index, and received the Employer of the Year: Inspire Award, recognizing the company for its exemplary policies, strategies and initiatives that have resulted in measureable results in the areas of disability inclusiveness in the workplace, marketplace and supply chain.
The TOMODACHI Initiative is a public-private partnership between the U.S.-Japan Council and the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo, with support from the Government of Japan. Born out of support for Japan’s recovery from the Great East Japan Earthquake, TOMODACHI invests in the next generation of Japanese and American leaders through educational and cultural exchanges as well as leadership programs. The initiative seeks to foster a “TOMODACHI Generation” of young American and Japanese leaders who are committed to and engaged in strengthening U.S.-Japan relations, appreciate each other’s countries and cultures, and possess the global skills and mindsets needed to contribute to and thrive in a more cooperative, prosperous, and secure world. Please visit www.tomodachi.org for more information.
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