COHOCTON — Imagine being part of a program that allows you to enter another country and embrace their culture and beliefs.


Haruna Yoshida, 15, of Saitama, Japan came to Rick, Christine, and Samantha Towner through the Labo International Exchange Program on July 26. She returned home on Aug. 22.


Assemblyman Bill Nojay presented Yoshida with the very flag that flew over the Capitol in Washington D.C. and a certificate.


“Labo Groups are volunteer run, and help Japanese children build English speaking skills through reading fables and stories, performing plays and singing songs. Labo is partnered with the States 4-H's International Exchange Program,” Christine Towner said. “Samantha has been Haruna's Host Sister, and she has immersed Haruna in all the activities she normally is involved with. This means Haruna has participated in the summer swim program at the Wayland HS pool, and accompanied Sam to work as a lifeguard at Lawrence Park Recreation Area.”


“As a family we have gone to the Sterling Renaissance Faire, visited Lake Ontario at Durand Eastman Park, gone to a ComicCon in Buffalo and visited Niagara Falls,” she continued. “We wanted to show Haruna as much of New York as we could in just a month.”


Samantha Towner added that she would be able to go to Japan after participating in this program.


“Haruna’s best memory is when we went to the lake to have a picnic,” she said. “We have seashells to send with her. We also have big meals, and sometimes Haruna cooks for us.”


Nojay mentioned how he use to be a foreign exchange student, and he loved having Haruna here.


“Japan is a wonderful country with an amazing history,” he said. “It is great to have her see our way of life, and take that home with her. For the last 50 years we have been great allies. We benefit from that relationship, and look forward to it continuing.”


Yoshida presented gifts to Nojay and the Cohocton Town Board for allowing her to be a part of the meeting. It is part of Japanese culture to exchange gifts.