Rising Stars Youth Leadership Program Invites High School Students

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As he leads the cultural values session, Craig Ishii elicits assistance from Brandon Chung.

As he leads the cultural values session, Craig Ishii elicits assistance from Brandon Chung.

The Nikkei Federation announces its 13th annual Rising Stars Youth Leadership Program, a leadership development and cultural education program for high school students.

The program is scheduled to take place on selected Saturdays from Oct. 10, 2015 through April 2, 2016 at the Japanese American Cultural and Community Center in Little Tokyo. The JACCC is the venue sponsor for the program and The Rafu Shimpo is the media sponsor.

The goal of the program is to develop leadership skills and to inspire high school students to be involved in the Japanese American community by presenting a series of active, engaging workshops on a variety of leadership topics. Participants will gain experience in community service and learn about the Japanese American experience as well as how to work in groups.

“We understand that the future of our community lies in the hands our youth,” said Russel Tsuda, chair of the Rising Stars Youth Program. “The program was established 13 years ago to reach out to youth to give them an opportunity to gain skills and introduce them to the Japanese community. We celebrated our 10-year anniversary in 2012 and it was gratifying to see our alumni and to learn first-hand how the skills that are taught in this program have helped the participants in their academic, professional and community endeavors.

“And, our goal is to reach out to more youth in our community with the hope that they will come back to the community as leaders.”

Taryn Manaka and Kaitlyn Chu make a presentation at the cultural values session.

Taryn Manaka and Kaitlyn Chu make a presentation at the cultural values session.

Students will participate in leadership sessions that include: “Teamwork,” “Networking,” “Speaking to Persuade,” “Assertiveness,” and “Financial Fitness.” Students will apply newly developed skills to complete a group project, networking with other participants in learning how to make an impact in the Japanese American community.

The program consists of six interactive workshops conducted by professional trainers with extensive corporate and community leadership development experience. Students also participate in cultural activities and social activities. Outings are designed to introduce the students to historic Little Tokyo and include a tour of the Japanese American National Museum, a walking tour, and a scavenger hunt through Little Tokyo.

Additional activities include social activities take place at off-site locations. Optional parent activities are also scheduled. The 10-session program concludes with a graduation reception.

Feedback from past participants has been overwhelmingly positive. The students have said the program has helped them in their academic careers and personal lives, and have given them a greater awareness and appreciation of the Japanese American community.

“The speakers we had taught us practical skills as well as a better understanding of our culture,” said Nicole Elby, a graduate of the fifth Rising Stars program. “We learned about our cultural values and how to find a balance between being a doormat and being overbearing. I especially gained from the sessions about how to work in groups and the importance of networking. I’ve already implemented the networking skills which really helped me with a school project!”

Kelsie Nakasone and Tyler Sugimoto make a presentation at the cultural values session.

Kelsie Nakasone and Tyler Sugimoto make a presentation at the cultural values session.

Nicholas Hanashiro, a Rising Stars 10 alumnus, offered, “The final two workshops to me were some of the most enlightening. ‘Cultural Values’ and ‘Networking.’ The first talked about all of the cultural values common to Japanese people, and every time they would read another one, I would think to myself, ‘So that’s why I think that.’ A mind-blowing characterization of myself in which I never knew that the values I held so close were cultural values instilled into me by my parents and their parents before them, and I assume their parents to them.

“Understanding your culture and your heritage, I learned, is one of the most important tools in sculpting your future.

“The last of the sessions was one dealing with networking, so the importance of building relationships, right? WRONG. From this session I was reassured that life would turn out all right. It’s a stressful time in a kid’s life waiting for college acceptances. Trying to decide at 17 or 18 the rest of our lives can be pretty difficult.

“When Mr. [John] Kobara spoke about his life … the networking was an underlying theme. However, I felt that the true message was that if you follow your heart, do your best and pursue that which you are passionate about, then things will turn out okay. So for life, it was reassuring.”

All sessions and events are held on Saturdays from 8:45 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the JACCC, 244 S. San Pedro St. Continental breakfast and lunch, snacks and drinks will be provided. A program fee of $200 per student will be charged upon acceptance. Fee includes lunch, snacks and drinks for workshop sessions and the graduation.

Enrollment is limited to 25 maximum. Applications and supporting documents must be postmarked by Saturday, Sept. 5, and applicants will be notified by Monday, Sept. 21. Participants must be enrolled in high school. Applications are available online at the Nikkei Federation website and can be submitted directly online at www.nikkeifederation.org/risingstars/application.html.

The program cost exceeds the participation fee and the Nikkei Federation must raise funds to present the program. For sponsorship opportunities, visit the Nikkei Federation website at www.nikkeifederation.org or contact Glenn Nakatani at P.O. Box 4235, Covina, CA 91723, call (626) 915-5338, fax (626) 915-2699, or email [email protected] The Nikkei Federation is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization.

Photos by Cyril Nishimoto

During a walking tour of Little Tokyo, Bill Shishima describes “Senzo,” a 20-foot photo-on-tile collage.

During a walking tour of Little Tokyo, Bill Shishima describes “Senzo,” a 20-foot photo-on-tile collage.

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