Suter family

Japanese student Riko Katsura (centered) participated in a monthlong visit to Strafford through the 4-H International Exchange Program. She was hosted by the Suter family, Mike, Aubrey, Ashley and Lori, during her visit.

Aubrey Suter, 12, of Strafford hosted Riko Katsura, 13, of Tokyo, Japan during a monthlong Japanese 4-H exchange. The exchange is organized through the 4-H International Exchange Program.

The Japanese intercultural exchange began in 1978 in Missouri with the Missouri 4-H Youth Development program. Since then over 1,200 youth have participated in the program either being hosted by a Missouri family or a traveling to Japan. The primary objective of this program is to provide a home-stay setting for the youth and for them to improve on their English-speaking skills while here in the USA and for our Missouri youth to improve on their Japanese speaking skills while in Japan.

Everyday family living is encouraged for the hosting experience so the Japanese youth may feel a part of the family and local community. Aubrey Suter, joined by her sister Ashley and parents Mike and Lori Suter, welcomed Katsura into their home in July. Katsura was introduced to the Suter family’s day-to-day living and activities. While in Strafford, Katsura interacted with several youth through local sports and 4-H activities.

Katsura shared her origami-making talent at the Ozark Empire Fair by demonstrating among the 4-H indoor exhibits. She also served as a 4-H Ambassador at the Missouri State Fair. The Greene County 4-H Teen Council and Highmark 4-H Club of Strafford also invited Katsura to join them as they completed community service projects.

When asked what her favorite part of her home stay was, Katsura replied, “I liked all of it.” Lori thought Katsura especially liked riding a horse at a nearby 4-Hers house, while Mike saw huge smiles as she was introduced to small aircraft at a local hangar. Visiting the City Museum in St. Louis and watching the Monster Truck Show at the Ozark Empire Fair are what Ashley and Aubrey thought were her favorite. Katsura also enjoyed sight-seeing, sewing, baking and trying American food. Katsura showed particular interest in ice cream and other sweets.

All in all, Katsura experienced what it was like to be an active kid in southwest Missouri. She was introduced to a variety of people and activities in the short time she visited. She was able to sight-see, be involved in the community and even attend two days of school before returning to Japan.

This exchange is coordinated by Missouri 4-H Youth Development office under the leadership of Joyce Taylor, coordinator, Global Education. Host families are located throughout Missouri, and each delegate’s experience is unique to his/her host family. Missouri hosted 11 delegates, one college mate and one chaperone from July 22 to Aug. 17.

As a second-time host to a Japanese delegate, the Suter family recommends this experience to others. Lori stated, "Our girls have enjoyed hosting and making new friends from across the world. We are happy to share our lives and knowledge with them." Aubrey said she hopes to visit Japan in the future as an outbound delegate.

Questions about the month-long Japanese 4-H exchange and other similar programs can be directed to Taylor at (573) 882-6393.

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