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Just like corporate employees, young people need to be given a proper environment so they can realize their potential, Nissan Motor Co. President Carlos Ghosn said Monday at a ceremony for scholarship recipients.

“Our mission here is to provide an environment that will unleash your ability,” Ghosn told university students taking part in the program, which provides grants to help them experience work at nonprofit organizations.

The Nissan president said that is exactly what he did when he took the helm of the then loss-making automaker in 1998.

“When I started the Nissan Revival Plan,” he said, “I found many Nissan employees who were talented and devoted. What I needed to do was to realize their potential by providing a proper environment.

“A clear direction, clear responsibility and clear burden-sharing led to higher performance from our employees.”

And just like corporate Nissan needed a new environment, young people need opportunities, he said.

“This is an investment made for your future,” Ghosn said in a speech he gave in fluent Japanese.

During the ceremony at the automaker’s Tokyo headquarters, Ghosn presented certificates of completion to 17 youths who received scholarships in last year’s Nissan-NPO Learning Scholarship Program.

The program was created in 1998 to provide university students with grants and other support that would allow them to work for NPOs over eight-month periods. Host NPOs include those engaged in environment matters, international cooperation, culture, art and welfare work.

The ceremony marked the closing of last year’s program and the beginning of this year’s.

“It was really a great opportunity and an entirely new experience — just like when I decided to come to study in Japan,” said Wan Ling, a University of Tokyo student who was among the 17 recipients of last year’s program.

Wan worked as an intern at Shanti Volunteer Association, a Tokyo-based group supporting educational activities in Thailand, Laos and Cambodia.

“Sending picture books to Asian countries may sound like an easy task,” Wan said, “but the outcomes are different depending on how you do it.”

Yuka Minamitani, another of last year’s recipients, worked as an intern at the Association for Corporate Support of the Arts.

“Updating the home page for an NPO was not a glamorous job,” Minamitani said. “But I learned how these organizations work in a realistic way.”

Seventeen students were chosen from among 156 applicants for this year’s program; they will start their internships later this month.

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