SAKON Wataru, who is employed at the Yubari City Office, has decided to undergo three years of training - starting in April - at a private enterprise so that he might gain the ability to contribute to the region’s future.
The Heisei era (1989–2019) was a time of struggle for Yubari, which suffered a financial collapse with the closing of the coal mine that was the main industry in the area. Although city programmes for children declined due to financial difficulties, efforts are being made by high school students to revitalise the community by conducting volunteer projects and participating in community developments.
To support the community, Sakon organised the High School Enhancement Project, which cooperates with businesses and overseas study programmes to create an environment in which students can experience solving municipal problems and increase their ability to work effectively in the future. When a crowdfunding project was carried out, money was donated by many people who used to live in Yubari.
"When adults make a commitment to help committed high school students, then vitality begins to return to the region," Sakon said. "I think that this project is going to create a bright future!"
What kind of high school students are participating in the High School Enhancement Project?
The students participating in the High School Enhancement Project are the kind of people who share Yubari High School’s ‘Challenge more!’ spirit. The majority of students love Yubari and tell us that they want to contribute to the city in the future.
What is the most memorable thing that has happened in the course of your work?
At an event to consider the future of Yubari, a girl who was president of the Student Council said "enough of this financial collapse! We’re not going to think about what we can’t do because we’re Yubari. We’re going to think about what we can!" I was pleasantly surprised to see that our high school students are thinking so much about the city's future.
What effects has the High School Enhancement Project had on Yubari?
High school students are applying themselves for the future of the region, and the adults are committed to helping them. More people are engaging in community development. There is a lot of bad news about declining populations and financial difficulties, but in Yubari, good news is increasing.
How have participating high school students responded?
An environment is slowly taking shape where the students can take on new challenges, and they are making a keen, positive, and cheerful effort in areas where they could not do so before. I learned from them that one can enjoy the difficult road to achieving one’s dreams.
What would you like to tell the world as a torchbearer?
I want to show the next generation how we, as adults, can pursue our dreams and take on challenges to create the future!