Student Wins Heritage Japanese Language Speech Contest

Badger High School Junior Wins Heritage Japanese Language Speech Contest
Posted on 03/08/2018
Badger High School Junior Wins Heritage Japanese Language Speech ContestA Badger High School junior recently won the 2nd Annual Heritage Japanese Language Speech Contest. Iris Takahashi-Bloede won the Grand Prize with her speech, “I am from Yamada, Wisconsin in Japan-America” at a contest held by the Consulate-General of Japan in Chicago.

“Congratulations to your excellent student,” said Naoki Ito, Consul-General, in a letter to Badger Principal Russ Tronsen. “It is not an easy achievement and I am sure she is proud. As her speech won the top prize, it goes to prove that she is very dedicated and hardworking.”

As Grand Prize winner, Bloede will receive a round-trip ticket to Japan. Iris will take the trip this summer and hopes to split her time between relatives in Iwate, Japan, and a host family in Tokyo. “I would like to be in Tokyo because it is a busy, huge bundle of cities so there is a lot to see and do,” she said.

For the competition, Iris prepared and presented a speech in Japanese, which she said was pretty difficult to do. Her mother is Japanese and her father lived in Japan for 20 years and helped her get her thoughts on paper and then refine the speech.

Iris was one of 20 who prepared speeches in Japanese. The students delivered their presentations to a panel consisting of teachers from the Japanese school and organizations in Chicago. “I was really nervous. Extremely nervous,” she said. Speaking 13th, she was able to see how the others were doing and gain the courage to deliver her speech.

Iris’ message focused on her experience as being half-Japanese and half American and what it’s like from her perspective: how people treat her, view her and how it’s affected her. “It’s kind of hard,” she said. “I really didn’t feel like I belonged in either country because I was different from both perspectives.” However, she now believes she can act as a bridge between America and Japan and is very proud of the fact that she can accomplish this.

Bloede plans to go to college and end up with a career she can utilize to connect both of her countries, perhaps Doctors without Borders or medical research. Being philanthropic is not new to this young lady, however. In 2011, Iris’ family in Japan was affected by the tsunami. She lost her grandparents and their community needed to rebuild. Though just in elementary school, Iris organized Run for Japan to raise money to help. She took the funds she collected to an elementary school in Japan to aid their rebuilding efforts.

To prepare for her future, Iris is taking as many Advanced Placement classes as she can. “AP classes give you a good sense of what it’s like to be in a college-level course,” she said.  Of Bloede, Tronsen says, “I am so pleased to hear about Iris' experience with the Japanese Saturday School Program.  Additionally, what a great way for her to express her heritage and be recognized for her efforts from the Consulate General of Japan.”
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