By RYOKO NAKAMURA
RAFU JAPANESE STAFF WRITER
The Japanese Chamber of Commerce of Southern California presented $17,000 in scholarships to 17 bright graduating seniors of Japanese descent on July 30, in Montebello.
The Japanese American Treaty Centennial Scholarship Fund, Inc. was established by JCCSC at its annual meeting in January 1960. It was a historic year of celebrating the 100th anniversary of the arrival of the first Japanese official delegation to the United States.
As JCCSC’s mission statement indicates, the scholarship is intended to foster commitment to higher education for the future generations. The fund is made possible by donations from its members, local businesses, and community members, and it has awarded $746,950 scholarships to 1,620 students since 1960.
At the ceremony, Toshio Handa, president of JCCSC, stepped down from the stage to deliver his speech standing among the students and their family members.
“Having a Japanese background and heritage is a great asset and great advantage to your future. You should be proud of it,” said Handa. He encouraged the students to learn the Japanese language and culture to utilize this advantage.
He compared the students to young birds who are about to leave the nest. “Fly high and find your own way. But please don’t forget the Japanese American community. I hope someday you will come back to our community,” he said.
Toshio Odagiri, a consul of the Consulate General of Japan in Los Angeles, remarked about the importance of education. He mentioned the Japanese American Leadership Delegation program funded by Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Japan Foundation Center for Global Partnership.
“I feel as though I am even now looking at our future Japanese American leadership delegates here today. I hope one day you may become a part of this program and travel to Japan representing not only the Japanese American community but the United States as well,” Odagiri said.
After being handed the scholarship on stage, Hatsune Sumi, a graduate of Woodbridge High School in Irvine, gave words of appreciation on behalf of the recipients.
Sumi described her childhood as a series of migrations: she was born in Japan, moved to Orange County when she was two years old, and then moved back to Japan for 4th grade.
“Being able to experience two completely different environment during my childhood really helped me to become more aggressive towards opportunities to make myself shine,” she said.
Sumi, who is pursuing a career as a biochemical engineer, has been accepted to Johns Hopkins University in Maryland. She is planning to major in biomolecular engineering.
JCCSC also recognized Kitty Sankey for her long-time support and dedication to the organization and the community. She is secretary/treasurer of JATCSF, a senior vice president of JCCSC, and a board member of the JCC Foundation, as well as a vice president of the Japanese Women’s Society of Southern California, the Japanese Optimist Club (Downtown Los Angeles Chapter), and the Japanese American Citizens League (former president).
Robert Yasui, the principal attorney of Yasui & Associates, was introduced as the keynote speaker. He acknowledged notable Japanese American public figures and told the students, “I want to tell you something that you might not realize. You are going to join this distinguished group. It’s unbelievable the kind of people you meet through this community.”
He encouraged the students to figure out where they wanted to go in life, carefully consider possible career paths, meet people, and take advantage of opportunities, “because you never know when history will tap on your shoulder.”
The 2011 recipients are: Ken Akira Araki, Darin Hideaki Chun, Chelsey Honma, Elena Midori Inamine, Nolan Minoru Jimbo, Hironori K. Kawano, Danielle Elizabeth Lee, Bryan M. Matsumoto, Alyssa M. Minamide, Erika Hiroko Nakagawa, Asa Ohsaki, Hatsune Sumi, Yuri Takabatake, Ryan Makoto Usui, Kim Mary Yamasaki, Shion Yamashita, Yurika K. Yoneda.