Every year has been special in its own way, but this school year in particular will be one that we will never forget. Responding to the pandemic tested our resilience and agility as a community in an unprecedented way. Even two months before August, we did not know if the border would reopen in time for our new school year. There were so many international schools in Japan and across the UWC movement that started to lose their students due to significant uncertainties and health concerns and our Board decided that we had to prepare for the worst.
Words can never express my gratitude for our supporters, who responded with incredible speed, warmth, and generosity when we sent out an “SOS” message during the summer. Emergency funds and in-kind gifts kept arriving at our doorstep (virtually and physically) and each gift and contribution touched us deeply and affirmed that we are not in this battle alone. On behalf of the Board of Directors, I want to express our deepest appreciation to our supporters for everything they did to lift up UWC ISAK Japan over the past year. These are the moments that we will never forget.
We are humbled and grateful to be able to report to you that we are finishing this school year without a financial deficit. Although the pandemic may not yet be over, we are confident that we are prepared for a new future that awaits us – thanks to everyone in the UWC ISAK community. Once again, thanks to everyone for their continued trust and for joining us in this exciting journey.
Over the past year, I was extremely moved by the amazing efforts of the faculty, staff, supporters and students in dealing with the incredibly challenging situation caused by COVID-19. Our students, in particular, continue to inspire me by their efforts to bring solidarity to the UWC ISAK Japan community and move in directions that will unite people around the globe. They truly are becoming the leaders that the world needs.
Our alumni, most of whom are engaged in full-time university studies, continue to support UWC ISAK with their time, talent, and even their financial treasure. I am so thankful to see their outpouring of gratitude and goodwill.
When Lin Kobayashi and I first started (UWC) ISAK, we dreamed that one day this school would be considered one of the best schools in Asia. Some media already speak of us in this way and, of course, I have always believed it. But for me, the proof of the value of UWC ISAK Japan will always be seen in the character and the actions of our students and alumni.
I am deeply grateful to everyone who continues to support UWC ISAK Japan and have never been more excited about what lies ahead for our school and the changemakers who call it home. The best is yet to come!
There is not one feeling, idea, or even phrase that can describe the 2020-2021 year at UWC ISAK Japan. With the world turned upside down, our emotions went from excitement when our returning students were allowed to reenter the country in July to sadness with the idea that our new students would still be delayed until further notice. But then came the day the campus erupted with joy when the Japanese government announced it would begin issuing new visas. (Arata Katayama, especially can attest to this).
When our final student arrived in November and nearly everyone was finished quarantine, we seemed to be headed for a normal school year. But in the first week of January 2021, things again took a turn for the worse as a small number of our community were confirmed to have contracted COVID-19 upon returning from winter break. We implemented immediate countermeasures, which included a campus lockdown and rigorous testing. This period challenged us all and took a mental toll, but thanks to the incredible resilience of our community and the support from our Board, parents, and local stakeholders, we passed this trial and had much to look forward to going into February and March and through the end of the school year.
You often hear our Chair Lin and I say, “it is not how you start, but how you finish.” It is a refrain we’d repeat daily to whoever would listen. But finish strong we did when we all gathered as one community on a beautiful day in May to celebrate the graduating Class of 2021. We witnessed this special class, who together survived historic typhoons and pandemics during their time at UWC ISAK Japan, toss their mortarboards into the air outside the newly opened Accord Center to signify the end of their student-journey at UWC ISAK Japan.
When I reflect on the 2020-21 academic year, what stands out the most is the unbridled success of our community in the face of adversity. More importantly, in line with the spirit of our Founders, our belief in UWC ISAK Japan never wavered. In fact, I believe that the passion, dedication, and commitment has never been stronger and the future never brighter.
Every day, we recognize that we are in the extraordinary position of having supporters who stand by us no matter the circumstances. I’d like to tell every individual that their support makes a difference and thank them for their belief in UWC ISAK Japan.
YEAR IN REVIEW
RESPONDING TO THE PANDEMIC
The global pandemic accelerated its pace in February and March and national borders were rapidly closing. As a school, we had to rapidly respond and made the decision to send students home. It was a tremendously challenging and emotional time, but thanks to the incredible efforts of our entire community, we were able to get a large majority of our students back to their families.
STUDENTS SPEND THE SUMMER ON CAMPUS
Each summer, our campus comes to life at the end of July for our annual Summer School. However, this year's edition was cancelled for the first time ever due to the global pandemic.
While it was disappointing, around 40 high school students who were unable to return home due to travel restrictions helped us maintain an upbeat atmosphere throughout the summer as they awaited their next window to return home or head to university.
The unprecedented step of hosting such a large group of students through the summer was only possible thanks to the incredible contributions of our supporters.
LAUNCH OF ISAKX
ISAKx was launched in the summer of 2020 as an online-only platform for students eager to experience the "ISAK" approach to education, but are unable to attend a program in person.
The program initially launched with 2 core courses in Exploring Leadership and Society & Politics, but by Spring of 2021 had expanded to also offer Winter and Spring Short Courses.
Despite being an entirely new and from scratch initiative, all ISAKx programs were fully enrolled and achieved nearly 100% satisfaction ratings.
LAUNCH OF WINTER SCHOOL
In response to the cancellation of Summer School due to pandemic-related complications, Winter School was launched to provide Summer School registrants with an onsite UWC ISAK experience.
The Winter School program introduced students to many of the same elements that Summer School is known for, such as leadership, design thinking, and diversity. In addition, many of our high school students, who were on their own winter breaks, chose to volunteer at Winter School, which gave it an even more international atmosphere.
THE ACCORD CENTER OPENS
Thanks to the incredible generosity of Hitoshi Honda, one of UWC ISAK Japan's 100 Founders, The Accord Center (TAC) was opened for campus activity following the winter break.
TAC was designed as a multi-purpose facility and, depending on the configuration, adds 3 classrooms, a performance center, art gallery, banquet hall, and seminar venue to our campus. It quickly proved its incredible value to our community and was the centerpiece of much of the vital activity that took place on campus at the end of the year, including the Art Exhibition, Film Festival, Graduation Banquet, and served as the backdrop for the Class of 2021's mortarboard toss after the Graduation Ceremony.
INTERNATIONAL DAY ENDS LOCKDOWN
2021 started with one of the biggest challenges UWC ISAK had ever experienced: positive COVID tests. A small number of our community had caught the virus, which forced our school to implement extraordinary measures (including campus and residence lockdowns and rigorous testing) to keep our school community and the Karuizawa community safe.
Despite the hardship, we were able to endure and in early February celebrated our international diversity and the end of lockdown at International Day.
SPRING PROJECT WEEK
Project Week is always a special event, but the 2021 Spring edition featured something extra special: a startup pitch contest!
As part of the Grade 10 Leadership Program, students were challenged to work in teams to create their own startup business and pitch their idea to a panelist of judges, who were themselves successful entrepreneurs. The judges took their role as seriously as the student teams and the end result was an enthralling event packed with incredibly well-prepared pitches.
Having endured the unexpected trials of an unprecedented typhoon in 2019 and the global pandemic of 2020-21, this Class will always represent resiliency.
On May 30th, our campus was treated to one of the most beautiful days of the year for our celebration of the Class of 2021. We watched our newest grads toss their mortarboards against the backdrop of the recently christened Accord Center and bright blue sky for the most fitting of send-offs.
UWC ISAK Japan is committed to educating in a deliberately diverse environment with students from all socio-economic, cultural and religious backgrounds. To meet this commitment, we provide need-based support to 70% of our students. Furusato Nozei is the most important source for our scholarship and for 2020, we received 330,337,000 Japanese yen despite the worldwide pandemic. (95% of your donations go to UWC ISAK Japan with 5% going to the betterment of education in Karuizawa.) We sincerely appreciate your support and trust in us. Thank you very much.
SUPPORTING STUDENTS THROUGH FINANCIAL ASSISTANCE
* Our students receive financial assistance fully or partially from Furusato Nozei and other sources.
A special effort in international diplomacy earned three UWC ISAK Japan students a Changemaker Award for their work to promote constructive dialogue between the youth of Japan and Korea. The award was given to Junpei (Class of 2022 / Japan), Ichiro (Class of 2022 / Japan), and Yuina (Class of 2021 / Japan) by ESIBLA, a Japan-based organization dedicated to making inquiry-based learning with an emphasis on using English.
INNOVATION FOR HIS COMMUNITY
Few would argue that 2020 was a rollercoaster of a year. For recent grad Gab Ponon (Philippines / Class of 2020), the past twelve months delivered a year with more ups and downs than he could have imagined. But a remarkable sense of resilience and positivity have carried him through the trials, and he is finding innovative ways to support his community.
Three UWC ISAK Japan students were selected to represent Japan in a global tech competition, having bested 22 other teams of female junior- and senior-high school students to claim the national title.
Technovation is a competition for girls from all over the world to learn and apply the skills needed to solve real-world problems through technology and coding. Isabel (Italy-USA), Cathy (China), and Mana (Japan), all members of the UWC ISAK Japan Class of 2022, created a business plan around a smartphone application that supports foreigners in their transition to a peaceful life in Japan by walking them through topics including local culture, VISA applications, laws and norms.
Click on each image to learn more about our newest faculty members.
I graduated from the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada where my passion for teaching and social sciences began. Before coming to Japan, I taught IB MYP Individuals and Societies for two years in Jordan and started a master’s degree in Modern International and Transnational History at the University of Oslo; which I am in the process of completing. I am constantly driven to discover new perspectives and research topics that connect disciplines across the social sciences. My philosophy in education stems from the crucial foundation of open, honest, and critical discussion. In my spare time, I enjoy exploring new places and going on multi-day hikes.
Mr. Kerr earned a university degree in broadcasting communications and a master’s degree in community counseling from Georgia State University. His profession has allowed him to serve in leadership in several U.S. state counseling organizations, as a counselor in a college setting, as a team lead in a community mental health setting, and as a counselor training supervisor. His passion is for helping individuals find their best selves. His interests include anything involving the great outdoors, curling up with a good book, and spending time with family.
My list of college degrees may be interesting but doesn’t carry the personal importance that my experience inside and outside the classroom of college students, young teens, and young children has brought. If I could condense my learning to one thought or bit of knowledge it would be this, “ALL humans need to know that they are valued and loved.” No matter where I go or where I have been, every experience of teaching and integrating my life with the lives of people, no matter the age, has always brought me back to this point that people need value and love from each other. Consequently, I have learned a lot from my students. What drives my inner engine is an honest interaction. I am an educator, an artist, a musician, a gardener, a mom, and a lover of creation in all of its forms and I will always be passionately curious.
I come from France but I grew up in New Caledonia, a French-speaking island located in the Pacific Ocean. I have worked in several IB schools around the world (Australia, UAE, Netherlands), most recently in Tanzania at UWC East Africa as the Outdoor Pursuits coordinator and MYP coordinator. I love traveling and discovering new places, especially the outdoors! My favorite outdoor activities are mountaineering, rock-climbing, mountain-biking, and surfing and I’m excited to be able to continue with those in Japan.
I am a Singaporean who loves traveling, food, and adventure. I enjoy learning about cultures that are different from mine and getting to know people from various parts of the world. After graduation, I joined the teaching profession and have enjoyed working with young adults for the last 20 years. I feel lucky that my love for teaching allows me to live in different countries.
WHAT PARENTS SAY
Like their children, the parents of our students embrace the UWC ISAK Japan mission and vision. We are so grateful for their support, encouragement, and trust. Click on their images below to view their video messages.
"This school is one big family. Not only for students, but for parents as well."