International education was an eye-opener for Kento Takata, and he made the most of it.
Takata graduated last spring from the High School at Vancouver Island University, where he made his mark as an organizer, a role model and a leader.
He lived and went to school in Chiba, Japan, until he was 16, when his mother suggested that the Japanese school system wasn’t right for him because it didn’t encourage his creative side.
“In Japan there’s not many opportunities to do that kind of thing – they tell you what to do,” Takata said.
He didn’t necessarily want to go to school in Canada, back then, but acquiesced. He struggled for the first few months until he started making friends. Playing football with the Nanaimo Redmen helped the transition, he said, as it exposed him to a different sort of peer group than his classmates at the international school.
“I’d never been in a Canadian kids’ society and being on the Nanaimo Redmen made me able to make Canadian friends, so that was a really good experience,” he said.
At Malaspina high he combined his interest in physical activity with his organizational skills and created the Malaspina Olympics, a series of intramural games leading up to a sports-day finale. The international students could put aside their studies for a little while, and laugh and bond over three-legged races and tug of war. It did wonders for school spirit.
“I have noticed a big difference,” Takata said. “Many students, at the end of the year, I noticed there’s new friendships.”
Other projects were charity-minded. He and his classmates raised money for the Tsunami Relief Fund through sales of bracelets, Japanese dishes and little clay sushi magnets. He also helped organize a carnival day at VIU to benefit the Nanaimo Unique Kids Organization.
His efforts were very much noticed at Malaspina high. Takata received the school’s Citizenship Award in 2012 – usually given to graduating students – and then this past spring, he got a School Service Award that was basically created specially for him.
He spent recent weeks at Ontario’s Centauri Summer Arts Camp, specializing in film and video editing, and now he’s getting ready to start post-secondary in Montreal. He’ll attend Dawson College, taking the community recreation leadership training program that he said sounds like a perfect fit.
He begins the next stage of his schooling with confidence, and the knowledge that he can make a difference.
“The experience of being in an international high school and being in a small high school, I was able to try to make my ideas happen,” he said.
– Greg Sakaki