Brackman Middle School Student to Represent Ocean County on 4-H Trip to Japan

Mar 20, 2019
Supplied Photo Nora Hansen

In early July, approximately 80 young people from across the country will travel to Japan as part of the 2019 4-H Inbound Exchange. Nora Hansen, a 13-year-old from Barnegat Township, will be among them. Hansen, who attends Russell O. Brackman Middle School, will represent Ocean County 4-H – as one of two New Jersey delegates – as the students “immerse themselves in new cultures and grow as global citizens,” she remarked.

Last summer, Hansen, along with Liana Trebour from Parkertown, attended the fifth annual 4-H Leadership Washington Focus Conference in Chevy Chase, Md. Our area’s 4-H – part of Rutgers Cooperative Extension, a unit of the N.J. Agricultural Experiment Station – incorporates a “learn-by-doing approach that enables youth to become competent, caring and contributing citizens of the world,” as the website states. The leadership conference provided an opportunity for the attendees to do just that, with the nation’s capital as classroom.

In a few months, for the youngsters venturing abroad, Japan will serve as the classroom.

Hansen first got involved with 4-H at 8 years old, when she started riding horses at Mike Kelly’s Horse Farm in Barnegat. She joined the Cross Street Riders, the Horse Science Club, Veterinarian Club, Photography Club and Horse Club. “The clubs participate in horse and academic events at a club, county and state level,” Hansen explained last year. “Community service is a requirement as well.

“The 4-H motto,” she added, “is to ‘Make the Best Better.’ 4-H clubs give me the opportunity to be a good leader and a helpful citizen to my community.”

When she learned about the opportunity to spend four weeks in Japan, Hansen set about completing the in-depth application. “I needed to include information about myself, my family and why I wanted to attend this program,” she noted last week. “I also had to do an essay and supply pictures of myself and my family.”

She is both excited and nervous for the trip, which will be her first time leaving the country without her family.

The teenager, as her mother, Wendy Hansen, pointed out, has an extra-special reason for her excitement: “Her best friend Emily is Japanese, and Nora has been a part of her Japanese family her whole life. She considers Emily a sister, and she would like to learn more about her culture and also bring a piece of Japan back to her. Her passion for Japan is due to her friend and her wonderful family.

“Along with the desire to learn more about Japan, Nora knows she will gain a global knowledge of the customs, education system and government.”

As Nora elaborated, “Emily Sellers is my closest friend that I have known since I was 2 years old. We met at daycare and have been best friends ever since. She was born in the U.S., but her mom was born in Japan. Emily’s mother moved to the U.S. when she was 10 years old. The Japanese heritage is important to her family, so Emily was raised with the same Japanese culture. Since I am so close to Emily and her family, I share the same passion for Japan.”

As Nora added, she is looking forward to “learning about the Japanese culture and understanding their traditional customs” during the four weeks she is overseas, as well as seeing “the modernization of Tokyo.”

“However, any place I go will be amazing!”

Matthew Newman, a 4-H agent on behalf of Rutgers University who oversees coordination of the exchange, remarked, “This really is a life-changing experience, and a great way to bring global education home.” And as Nora is quoted in a Rutgers press release about the program, she believes expanding her knowledge abroad “will help in the world by making me and other participants better leaders.”

And of course, as Nora emphasized, “I also want to bring a piece of Japan back to my best friend Emily.”

For more information about the Ocean County 4-H program, call 732-349-1227 or visit the 4-H website at

To learn more about the New Jersey 4-H Exchange, visit or contact Matthew Newman at 732-431-7260, extension 7266, or

Juliet Kaszas-Hoch

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