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Ceres High group off to Japan
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Since 1991 students from Kyoto Gakuen High School in Japan have made cultural visits to Ceres and Ceres High School. For the first time ever, Ceres students will be reciprocating.

Today a group of 18 students and four adult chaperones will be flying to Japan for a week tour of Kyoto, which was once the capital of Japan before Tokyo was selected.

"This is the first time we've gone," said Linda Cooper, who will be participating along with Principal Bob Palous and his wife Terry and associate principal Linda Stubbs.

Ceres was planning to make a trip to Japan at the time of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

"Ceres was supposed to go that year and they said no they weren't coming either," recalled Cooper.

In October Ceres High hosted students from Kyoto and plans were made shortly thereafter to send Ceres to Japan as an exchange visit.

"Bob (Palous) was very supportive of that because the teachers always ask if I would invite a group of students to come over there," said Cooper. "The board approved that. Very cool."

Participants are shelling out $1,200, of which $850 is airfare. Some students raised the cash by private sponsorships, some earned the money but all students participated in a Bowl-a-thon fundraiser and sold raffle tickets for the Ceres Community Foundation.

Students were also told that they would probably need $300 a piece for shopping and other expenses.

"I'm sure they will be shopping," said Cooper. "That's what their kids like to do when they come here."

Besides cash the students were warned to bring warm clothes as Japan is in the middle of winter.

The group will leave at noon today from San Francisco International Airport and arrive at Konsai International Airport at 6 p.m. Thursday (due to the crossing of the international date line in the Pacific Ocean.) The group will take a train to Kyoto and be picked up by host families. Students will stay with hosts, who will show them around the area. The four adults will be housed in a dorm attached to the school, said Cooper.

The Americans will be shown around the high school where approximately 4,000 seventh- through 12th graders attend.

Ceres got involved with exchange visits through Chris Flesuras, a former Ceres administrator. His son, Chris Flesuras Jr., teaches English at Kyoto High. He arranged several visits of Japanese students to Modesto high schools, then asked Ceres High if they cared to participate.

Chris Jr. will be the guide for Ceres on Saturday and Sunday, showing them sites like the old village of Nara on Monday. "It's supposed to be an incredibly beautiful natural environment," said Cooper, "like deer running around town. There's also tons of temples to see."

Besides experiencing culture shock, the Ceres students might notice less room in their host country. Japan has an estimated population of 128 million people on 145,842 square miles, making it one of the densest at 343 persons per square kilometer. America, by contrast, as a density of 31 persons per square kilometer.

Students going on the trip are: Mayra Abreo, Brandon Avila, Justin Breckenridge, Courtney Craig, Kayla Gilmore, Melisa Leon, Saleen Narvaez, Rachel Nevarez, Taylor Ross, Melissa Ruger, Carter Silveira, Vanessa Solis, Kayla Steele, Tyler Story, Karen Villalobos, Morgan Welsh, Jayme Westbrook and Kelly Yoder.

The group will return on Feb. 13, probably very tired from their hectic tour and jet lag.