2023 Scholarship Winner

The Salem-Ota Cultural Exchange is pleased to announce that Grace Milano, a graduating senior at Salem High School has been awarded this year’s Scholarship award, presented during the Salem High School Senior Awards Night. She will be using this scholarship as he attends the University of Massachusetts Amherst this fall.

She, and the other applicants for the award, were asked to write an essay about their involvement with the exchange; how it affected their life; and how it will influence their future.

Her award-winning essay:

One of my most fond memories from Elementary School was making a painting in art class to exchange with our sister school in Ota, Japan. I remember feeling astounded by the fact that my own art will be hung up on the other side of the world. This memory came back to me the summer before entering high school when my mother informed me about possible involvement with Ota Cultural Exchange. I was beyond exhilarated to host a teenager my age and to create a bond with them. The day Maho Harada arrived in the parking lot of the House of Seven Gables was such a memorable day for my family. We held up a sign with her name on it and as she walked right over to us, it felt as if I had just met my new sister. Over the course of our week together, my family showed Maho all around Salem, and we even took her to Salisbury Beach in Northern Massachusetts to swim in the Atlantic Ocean. Our nightly conversations in my bedroom were my favorite. It was our way of getting to know each other and to compare our lives at school, our families, our friends, and our music. Throughout the week, we bonded closer and I could already notice a substantial improvement in her English speaking. It has been 3 summers since I’ve seen Maho, and we continue to exchange holiday and birthday cards, and frequent text messages to stay updated on each other’s lives. Since learning about Ota Cultural Exchange, I never got a chance to be a traveling student myself as a result of Covid. However, my family has found involvement in fundraising opportunities. Our week spent with Maho Harada influenced me into spending my college semester abroad in Tokyo during my sophomore year of college in 2025. I am so grateful to have been involved in Ota Cultural Exchange, and it will forever be a core memory of mine.

This exchange program has affected my life in small ways such as my laundry techniques, which I would like to give Maho credit for showing me the absolute most organized and strategic way of washing and drying clothes-I have taken her laundry habits and incorporated them into my life for the past 3 years. However, the Ota Cultural exchange has impacted my life in a much larger way than I could have ever imagined. Since finding involvement with this program, I have made an effort to learn the lifestyles of many other cultures around the world, I have broadened my creative realms such as finding new music tastes and new food, and I have also decided to take Japanese classes next year at UMass Amherst so that I can graduate with a minor in Japanese. My life has been positively affected by Ota Exchange, and I will forever be grateful for this rewarding experience.

My future at UMass Amherst starting this upcoming fall is influenced by Ota. From taking classes that will lead to a minor in Japanese, to choosing to study abroad for a semester in Tokyo in two years, I have chosen to immerse myself in this new culture, which I have been introduced to with Ota Cultural Exchange. Although Ota Exchange has inspired me to keep learning about the lifestyle and language in Japan, it has also influenced me to never stop discovering all cultures in the world. After I finish studying at the University level, I want to find more involvement in Ota Exchange and someday become a leader in this program because I want children and adults in Salem, or any town, to have the opportunity to experience cultural exchange.