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Get to Know Our Officers - Featuring Our Secretary, Jocelyn Russell!

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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