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St. Petersburg to send 2 students to Takamatsu, Japan

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

Know a high school junior living in St. Petersburg who has a penchant for travel? St. Pete is opening its annual application process to send up to two 11th-grade students to its sister city, Takamatsu, Japan.

Students interested in applying must complete the city’s official application form, an original essay, a letter to the program’s host family in Japan, class photos, and a copy of their high school transcripts including proof of participation in honors programs and/or their activities. They also must submit a class photo.

Parents of applicants also have to do a little legwork. Parents must include their own letter to the host family as well as two reference letters, including one from a school faculty member.

Applications are due to the city by March 11. Applications may be hand-delivered to the Office of Cultural Affairs in City Hall or mailed with a postmark no later than 5 p.m. on the day of the deadline. Applications cannot be submitted digitally.

The student or students selected will spend two weeks with a host family in Takamatsu, located on the southern Japanese island of Shikoku.

Visitors will have the opportunity to meet local government officials as well as Takamatsu’s mayor. They will attend a local high school and participate in daily activities with their host family. That includes visiting local cultural hot spots, historical sites, and even learning to cook local fare.

The students are expected to share their experience with the St. Pete City Council when they return as well as schools or other groups interested in the program.

The program includes round-trip airfare, insurance and home stays. Students traveling there should expect to have enough money to cover personal living expenses while in Japan including transportation, visits to attractions and meals.

Since the program began, 52 St. Pete students have visited Takamatsu.

The program also accepts students from Takamatsu into St. Pete. The city is looking for host families to participate in that program.

Trips to Takamatsu and for those traveling to St. Pete are scheduled in late July or early August. Families interested in becoming a host family can find more information on the city’s website. An application and background check is required.

St. Pete and Takamatsu have been sister cities since 1961.

Janelle Irwin has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in the Tampa Bay area since 2003. She also hosts a weekly political talk show on WMNF Community radio. Janelle formerly served as the sole staff reporter for WMNF News and previously covered news for Patch.com and various local neighborhood newsletters. Her work has been featured in the New York Daily News, Free Speech Radio News and Florida Public Radio and she's been interviewed by radio stations across the nation for her coverage of the 2012 Republican National Convention. Janelle is a diehard news junkie who isn't afraid to take on big names in local politics including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, the dirty business of trash and recycling in St. Pete and the ongoing Pier debacle. Her work as a reporter and radio host has earned her two WMNF awards including News Volunteer of the Year and Public Affairs Volunteer of the Year. Janelle is also the devoted mother to three brilliant and beautiful daughters who are a constant source of inspiration and occasional blogging fodder. To contact, email janelle@floridapolitics.com.

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