Frank and Cathy Marino of Hubbard and their daughter, Carrie, have been hosting Japanese students for several years through the Labo International Exchange Program, but this year had the pleasure of hosting a Labo chaperone, Matsumura Yoshiko.
''We started with the program when Carrie was 12 and have been doing it on and off for about eight or nine years,'' said Frank Marino.
Carrie, now an adult and engaged to Josh Goppert, remembers many of the Japanese students who have stayed in their home for two weeks each summer over the years.
Hubbard Community News / Kathleen Evanoff
More than 115 students and chaperones arrived in Ohio last month as part of the Labo International Exchange Program in cooperation with The Ohio State University and 4-H. Eight students and two chaperones were assigned to Trumbull and Mahoning counties, where students and chaperones lived with American families during their one-month stay. The Marino family of Hubbard has been hosting Labo students and chaperones for more than 10 years. Pictured from left are Frank Marino, Cathy Marino, Labo student chaperone Matsumura Yoshiko, Carrie Marino and Josh Goppert.
''I was culture shocked at first by their lifestyles,'' Carrie said. ''They are always busy and don't have much time to enjoy their day.''
This year, instead of a student, the Marinos hosted one of the volunteer chaperones. Matsumura Yoshiko, a Labo International Volunteer Leader and tutor for 11 years, has been traveling with the organization since she was a student at age 15 in 1980. Although she has traveled to other parts of the country, this is Yoshiko's first trip to Ohio.
Labo is a family-based Japanese youth organization that enables children in Japan between the ages of 13 and 18 to learn about other cultures, improve their English-language skills and to travel to the United States and Canada to live with host families for one month each summer.
Labo tutors, such as Yoshiko, are volunteers who are trained to work with the children and travel with them during the exchange program.
This year more than 115 Labo students and chaperones traveled to Ohio under the cooperation of The Ohio State University and OSU Extension's 4-H program. Trumbull and Mahoning counties hosted eight youth and two chaperones. The group arrived in Canfield on July 23 to meet their host families. Students and chaperones spend the first two weeks with one host family and the last two weeks with another. They were to travel to Columbus for a wrap-up session before returning to Japan.
During her stay with the Marino family, Yoshiko visited Pymatuning Deer Park in Jamestown, Pa., the Butler Art Museum and Mill Creek Park. She also toured Pittsburgh. The entire group gathered July 28 for a Scrappers game during their mid-point visit.
Yoshiko's job as tutor and chaperone is to be available by phone or in person, if needed, for students who might need special attention during their time with the host family. The trip is only the final chapter in what was a year-long process where students attended meetings and workshops to learn about the U.S. culture and prepare them for their trip.
Previously visiting Oklahoma as a Labo student, Yoshiko said that Ohio was ''very different.''
''I enjoy sitting on the enclosed porch and looking into the woods for animals,'' Yoshiko said. ''In Japan I am always very busy.''
Although the students and chaperones get to do a bit of traveling during their trip, it is not a sightseeing trip but a way to experience the American lifestyle, Frank Marino said.
During her stay, Yoshiko said she enjoyed all of the American food she was served, particularly Cathy Marino's meatloaf and pork tenderloin. Before she left for her return trip home, Yoshiko prepared a Japanese meal for the Marino family of deep fried pork, noodle soup and curry rice with chicken.
Back in Japan, Yoshiko is the mother of three children, a girl age 14 and two sons, 12 and 8. Her daughter, Yoshiko said, has been to Connecticut as a Labo student and her oldest son will be making his first trip next summer.
Over the years, the Marino family has kept in touch with a few of their Labo exchange students, particularly Carrie, who still writes to one of the first students they hosted when she was still a student in Hubbard.
Now Goppert, Carrie's fiance, is enjoying the visit as well, stating the experience for him has been ''really fun.''