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
- Watching Netflix
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!