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JETAA Chicago officer elections are coming up on March 1st! In light of this, we wanted to take the time to shine a spotlight on our current officers (election term from November 2019 - March 2021) in order to get to know the people behind the headshots, and to learn more about what they do in their roles as officers. This will be an 8 part "Get to Know Our Officers" series in which we will highlight each officer leading up to the elections and come to know their motivations, values and legacy.


Last week we introduced our Philanthropy Coordinator, Sheila Burt, and our President, Gabriel Coronado. Next we would like to introduce our Secretary, Jocelyn Russell (she/her), who was an ALT in Gunma Prefecture from 2015-2019!



Tell us more about your JET experience.


JET for me was a journey that included finding my true self and my second family. After meeting and befriending so many amazing individuals from all backgrounds and walks of life, I now feel more comfortable with who I am and more driven to go the places I want to go. I learned that you can grow roots almost anywhere and feel like coming home, even when you're thousands of miles away from your "original" home. It was incredibly hard at times, but I wouldn't have traded the JET experience for anything else!



When did you join/how long have you been on the JETAA Board? What positions have you held?


Secretary since Nov. 2019


What inspired you to step up as a leader and join the JETAA Chicago Board?

Coming back from JET can be a grueling experience and lonely at times. Having those feelings during the COVID pandemic then can amplify them tenfold. That was me about a year post-JET and in an effort to calm some of those feelings, I signed up to attend an open board meeting. Right away, I felt so warmly welcomed that I knew I had found a sort of remedy to my post-JET blues. I joined the JETAA Chicago board so I can help other JET alumni in similar positions to my own. I want to show them that the JET experience can continue even and that all alumni are welcome in our community in any capacity, at any time.



Describe your officer duties and what you have enjoyed about said duties.

During my time as Secretary, I've worked at properly documenting and organizing JETAA Chicago material, particularly in the virtual space, since the COVID pandemic. Moving forward, I'm excited to be implementing my data analytic skills learned in my new career to collect, organize, and present data about the JETAA Chicago community and the events we put on.


What could be a healthy and/or needed culture add to JETAA Chicago?


I would like to see a bigger shift towards career advancement for JETAA Chicago members with focus on newly returned JETs and JET alumni who are making big career changes. It would be nice to have someone on the board who is solely dedicated to helping JET alumni network, get career advice they need, and connect them to jobs across the country.



What is one highlight, accomplishment, and/or something you're proud to have been a part of during your time serving as an officer?


I'm very proud of helping organize and host JETAA Chicago's first "Fold 'n Sip" virtual origami event, late in July of 2019. Inspired by my local "paint 'n sip" shop and frustrated that I couldn't easily go there anymore, I wanted to help curate a casual craft event for JET alumni while also incorporating those "natsukashii" feelings we all have while reminiscing about our time in Japan. I think most JETs would agree that origami was something they did more times than they can count; either at a welcome event, an international picnic, or with their students. For me, when I fold origami, I go back to those times and feel at peace.

With the support of the entire board (and in particular, our Activities Coordinator, Cassie Conrad), we planned and put on a virtual origami night featuring beverages, if participants wished to drink. We folded 3 origami (jumping frog, ninja star, and paper crane) and ended the night with a race to see who could fold a paper crane the fastest. To encourage reusing and recycling, we requested that participants use scrap paper, cut down to the size of regular origami paper.

We had about 20 people participate, including some very experienced origami folders, who were kind enough to share their own creations and advice on how to improve our folding skills. It was an excellent evening and I'm looking forward to the next one we can do (virtually or in-person)!


For you, what sparks joy?


- Conversations where time is just forgotten

- An early morning run in late-spring, just as the sun is rising

- Japanese shrines and temples

- A good book and tea on a rainy day

- Microbreweries



What is your favorite Japanese "thing" near where you live now (and/or in the Midwest)?

The Midwest has a lot to offer that reminds me of Japan, but I think my favorite of them all is Sawada Coffee in Chicago. Founded and owned by Hiroshi Sawada, a champion latte artist, this coffee shop reminds me of all the weekends where I'd travel across the Kanto region with my JET friends looking for local coffee shops. I definitely recommend checking this café out! Please try their "military latte"!


Connect with Jocelyn via email or LinkedIn, or Instagram and Twitter @russ_jocelyn!



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JETAA Chicago officer elections are coming up on March 1st! In light of this, we wanted to take the time to shine a spotlight on our current officers (election term from November 2019 - March 2021) in order to get to know the people behind the headshots, and to learn more about what they do in their roles as officers. This will be an 8 part "Get to Know Our Officers" series in which we will highlight each officer leading up to the elections and come to know their motivations, values and legacy.


This week we are doubling up! Yesterday we introduced our Philanthropy Coordinator, Sheila Burt. Next we would like to introduce our President, Gabriel Coronado (he/him), who was a JET in Miyazaki Prefecture from 2007-2008!



Tell us more about your JET experience.


I was an ALT at an Agricultural High School in Miyazaki City for one year. It was a beautiful city and I had an amazing experience. One of my favorite things to do was take my bike out and just ride around the city seeing new parts of it. It never snowed and rarely dropped below freezing, so I could ride almost all year long.



When did you join/how long have you been on the JETAA Board? What positions have you held?


Vice President 2016-2018, President 2019-Present


What inspired you to step up as a leader and join the JETAA Chicago Board?


In 2016, our chapter was short officer candidates and I was asked to join the board and help rebuild the leadership.

Describe your officer duties and what you have enjoyed about said duties.


During my time as Vice President and President, I have had the opportunity to work with many of my fellow alumni to build a strong and supportive community. I have helped create engaging outreach programming, built connections with local Japan-America organizations and led the effort toward long term stability for our chapter.



What could be a healthy and/or needed culture add to JETAA Chicago?

Continuing to work towards the understanding that our alumni community is one community in which alumni from all different backgrounds and generations are welcome and encouraged to participate in. We have made good progress, but this understanding needs to be constantly maintained.

What is one highlight, accomplishment, and/or something you're proud to have been a part of during your time serving as an officer?


I am proud of the work the 2020 officer team has done to keep our community engaged and supported during the COVID-19 pandemic. It has been a difficult year, but everyone has put in the time and effort for our alumni.

For you, what sparks joy?


- Eating Japanese Curry

- Playing board games

- Having a drink with friends (hopefully in-person soon)

- Godzilla

- Getting to bed at a reasonable time


What is your favorite Japanese "thing" near where you live now (and/or in the Midwest)?


Ramen House Shinchan


Connect with Gabriel via email!



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JETAA Chicago officer elections are coming up on March 1st! In light of this, we wanted to take the time to shine a spotlight on our current officers (election term from November 2019 - March 2021) in order to get to know the people behind the headshots, and to learn more about what they do in their roles as officers. This will be an 8 part "Get to Know Our Officers" series in which we will highlight each officer leading up to the elections and come to know their motivations, values and legacy.


Last week we introduced our Activities Coordinator, Cassie Conrad. Next we would like to introduce our Philanthropy Coordinator, Sheila Burt (she/her), who was an ALT in Toyama Prefecture from 2010-2012!


Tell us more about your JET experience.


I taught elementary and junior high students in the seaside village of Namerikawa in Toyama Prefecture. My happiest memories involve gazing out of the window in awe of the massive Tateyama mountain range and helping my students gain confidence in their speaking ability.



When did you join/how long have you been on the JETAA Board? What positions have you held?


Member since 2014, Philanthropy Coordinator since March 2020

What inspired you to step up as a leader and join the JETAA Chicago Board?

The experience of being on the JET Program is undeniably powerful and remains a strong part of my identity. I was interested in becoming an officer in order to help give back to prospective JETs and other alumni, and to help further US-Japan relations at the grassroots level.


Describe your officer duties and what you have enjoyed about said duties.

As Philanthropy Coordinator, I have helped lead programming for our alumni and prospective JETs and am interested in continuing to uncover ways our organization can help give back to the community. I have especially enjoyed researching grant opportunities and organizing an event in commemoration of the 75th anniversary of the atomic bombings.

What could be a healthy and/or needed culture add to JETAA Chicago?


It would be helpful to increase our presence in the community (specifically at schools) and/or online to let all alumni and prospective JETs know that we are here to support them, and to encourage people to apply to the program!



What is one highlight, accomplishment, and/or something you're proud to have been a part of during your time serving as an officer?


I am most proud of organizing an event in commemoration of the 75th anniversary of the atomic bombings that featured a survivor of the Hiroshima bombing (Koko Kondo Tanimoto-san), as well as other activists and scholars who are extremely knowledgeable on the topic. They offered their unique insight, presenting on the legacy of the bombings and why remembering them remains important to this day. The memories of the survivors are precious and important for peace relations today; I am humbled and honored that we were able to share the story of one survivor with the JET community.



For you, what sparks joy?

- Spending time with loved ones

- Running

- Watching Netflix

- Cooking/baking

- Hiking


What is your favorite Japanese "thing" near where you live now (and/or in the Midwest)?


The Japanese Cultural Center on Belmont! Every time I visit, I am reminded of the many aspects of Japanese culture that I can still learn more about, such as tea ceremony and ikebana!


Connect with Sheila via LinkedIn!




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JETAA CHICAGO

Japan Exchange & Teaching (JET) Alumni Association of Chicago
Connecting JET alumni in the Midwest - Illinois, Wisconsin, and Indiana