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Students from Tomi City, Japan, are set to arrive in Friday, March 8; MHS students to visit Japan.

SUBMITTED PHOTO - This year's group of Madras High School students travel to Madras' Sister City, Tomi City, Japan, in June. They include, from left, Kiandra Smith, Kimberly Juarez, Katherinne Parodi and Elan Rios. The students need to raise $8,000 for the trip. 
On Friday, Madras will welcome students from the town's Sister City in Japan, who will spend about five days touring the area, attending classes at the high school and spending time with their host families.

Several students from Tomi City, Japan, will arrive in Jefferson County on Friday, March 8, as a part of the Sister Cities' cultural exchange program.

The Sister City program between Tomi City and Madras has been in existence for about 25 years, according to Andrew Smiley, program chaperone this year, who will be accompanying a group of Madras students to Tomi City in June.

Despite the program's long history, this year is only the third time that Madras will send a group of students to Tomi City, though students from the Sister City have been visiting relatively regularly for the last 25 years, Smiley said.

While in the area, the Tomi City students will visit area attractions, such as Smith Rock State Park and Round Butte and visit an alpaca farm. They will also spend time visiting classes at the high school and tour the Madras City Hall.

Smiley said the four Madras students, Katherinne Parodi, Kimberly Juarez, Elan Rios and Kiandra Smith, are looking forward to meeting their counterparts in the program and are already making plans for any down time they may get to spend with the visiting students.

The students stay in host homes while they are here, an important point of the program according to Smiley, who mentioned that staying in homes of the city's residents, no matter if it is the students from Tomi City visiting Madras or Madras students visiting Tomi City, allows them a better understanding of the cultures and everyday life of a place.

As this year's chaperone for the trip to Tomi City later in the year, part of Smiley's job is to try to help the Madras students prepare for being immersed in a different culture. Smiley said he is trying to teach them, "Some of the ins and outs and dos and don'ts."

"My function is to prepare them culturally, as well as oversee travel and help with fundraising," he said.

Smiley said that he is trying to help the students learn phrases in Japanese and helping them learn some of the differences between the two cultures.

He is also making efforts to help the students raise all of the money they need before making the same trip as the Tomi City students, in reverse, come June.

The Madras students need a total of $8,000 for the trip, and while some of it has already been raised, they are still fundraising and accepting donations.

A GoFundMe account has been set up to help raise funds. "It is a tool for people to donate conveniently," Smiley said.

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