Hiro Sugawara poses on the steps of the Yampa Valley Mail, as the local train between Denver and Craig was called, in June 1964. Hiro spent the school year in Craig as an exchange student from Japan.

Museum of Northwest Colorado/courtesy

Hiro Sugawara poses on the steps of the Yampa Valley Mail, as the local train between Denver and Craig was called, in June 1964. Hiro spent the school year in Craig as an exchange student from Japan.

Museum of Northwest Colorado: Looking for 'Our Hiro'

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In 1964, Moffat County High School was fortunate to host a student from Japan through the AFS Student Exchange program. This experience allowed Hiro Sugawara to experience life in rural America, but it also expanded horizons for local students in Craig. The following is excerpted from the 1964 Moffat County High School yearbook and shows what an impact Sugawara’s visit had on Craig.

“’Our Hiro.’ Hiroomi Sugawara’s influence at MCHS has been one of the highlights of this year. Hiro came to the United States from his hometown of Yonezawa, Japan, and in a very short time the students accepted Hiro because of his friendly personality. He has participated in various community and school activities. The chorus class elected Hiro to preside as their president for the year. One of his main activities in chorus was the school musical 'Brigadoon.' Hiro has also shown his sportsmanship by participation in cross-country and attendance at sports events. Although we will miss Hiro, we hope he has gained as much from his stay as we have gained from knowing him. Good luck, Hiro!”

Hiro, in turn, gave a brief description of Japanese high school life: “My hometown of Yonezawa is a very old town where the ancient and the modern exist side by side. Yonezawa has six high schools. We have one month summer vacation and about three weeks winter vacation. We have to go to school on Saturday. I just envy the American student’s life.

"In Japan there are about 500 colleges each with their own entrance examinations. In some good colleges just one out of 25 applicants can pass the examinations so there are many special schools called ‘Preparatory Schools.’ Students who graduated from high school but failed the college entrance examinations go to these schools until they can pass the tests of the college they want to enter. They are serious about going to college.

"In the worst cases, students who failed entrance examinations commit suicide. Every year this tragedy happens in Japan because there are too many students for the number of colleges. Though you may think it is ridiculous, this is a miserable actual condition of Japanese high school students. It has been one of my unforgettable, wonderful experiences that I could study with you American students during my high school life.”

Fifty years after Hiro’s visit in Craig, there is the possibility of a 50th class reunion for the Moffat County High School Class of 1964. If anyone knows of or has heard any news about Hiro, be sure to let the staff at the Museum of Northwest Colorado know. We would love to add that information to our story about him for the possible reunion. Contact the museum at 970-824-6360, or stop by and visit with the staff. We would love to hear your story.

Mary Pat Dunn is the registrar of the Museum of Northwest Colorado.

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