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Gift of paper cranes caps exciting visit by Japanese grad students

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GREENVILLE, Pitt County - For the past 11 years, ECU and Pitt County teachers have had an exchange partnership with graduate students from Hiroshima University in Japan. Monday, those students received a special gift from kids at C.M. Eppes Middle School.

As four Japanese graduate students and their professor wrapped up their trip to North Carolina, Jessica Gribbon's 8th grade class at C.M. Eppes Middle School decided to surprise them with a gift of peace and friendship after spending a week learning about Japanese culture.

"They do not know that the paper cranes are going to be presented to them," Gribbon said shortly before the reveal. "They will be receiving them this afternoon, and I cannot wait to see the look on their faces."

During her time in Japan, Gribbon learned presenting gifts to visitors in a Japanese custom.

"I knew that this fall when they would be coming to C.M. Eppes that I wanted my students to be able to present them with the gift of the paper cranes," she said. "There's an ancient legend in Japan -- if you make 1,000 paper cranes, a wish will come true."

In Japanese culture, paper cranes are a sign of peace and friendship. Gribbon's students came up with the idea to make 500 cranes and request a middle school in Hiroshima to make the remaining 500. The final display of 1,000 cranes will be hung at Peace Memorial Park in tribute to the children lost during the atomic bombing in WWII.

Awesome students at @cmebulldogs presented 500 paper cranes to Japanese students they're hosting. How sweet! @PCS_NC @missgribbon @wcti12

-- Stephanie Brown WCTI (@StephanieC_B) September 18, 2017

"I think they were very excited and kind of surprised that we would learn it and we would do it because I don't think they were expecting us to do anything like that at all," eighth grader Cadence Dobra said.

Their goal was to promote unity and peace and they're visitors say it was a job well done.

"Thank you so much for taking the time and also this would be a great challenge for us, and even for them, to think about the importance of peace in this very difficult world," the professor said.

Those four Japanese graduate students are studying to become teachers themselves. They came to eastern North Carolina to further hone their teaching skills. They hope to use some of the things they learned here as they start their teaching careers back home in Japan.

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