Berkeley JACL Awards Scholarships, Honors Pioneers


From left: Paul Nakao (co-president), Brittany Nakamura, Eric Ota, Yumi Kobayashi, Kenji Israels, James Duff Jr. (Pioneer Award), Tomiyuri Lewis, Michael Oguro (co-president), Cole Yoshida (Pioneer Award for George Yoshida).

From left: Paul Nakao (co-president), Brittany Nakamura, Eric Ota, Yumi Kobayashi, Kenji Israels, James Duff Jr. (Pioneer Award), Tomiyuri Lewis, Michael Oguro (co-president), Cole Yoshida (Pioneer Award for George Yoshida).

BERKELEY — The Berkeley JACL chapter awarded scholarships to high school seniors Kenji Israels, Yumi Kobayashi, Tomiyuri Lewis, Brittany Nakamura, Eric Ota, and Robert Schneider and presented Pioneer Awards to James Duff Jr., and George Yoshida (posthumously) during the May 3 awards luncheon held at Spenger’s Fresh Fish Grotto in Berkeley.

Yumi Kobayashi, a senior at Albany High School, was awarded the Dan/Kathleen Date Memorial Scholarship. She will enter Occidental College and major in diplomacy and world affairs. Active at her high school’s basketball and track and field teams, Kobayashi was recognized by the North Coast Section as a member of the Distinguished Scholastic Team. She also served as her high school’s student body secretary/treasurer.

Kenji Israels, also a senior at Albany High School, was awarded the Bea Kono Memorial Scholarship. He will enter UC Merced and major in environmental engineering. Israels was president of the Hapa Club, placed first in the U.S. International Duo Piano Competition, and played with the Oakland Youth Orchestra.

Eric Ota of Athenian High School in Danville was awarded the Terry Yamashita Memorial Scholarship. In the fall, he will attend UC Santa Cruz, where he plans to major in computer science. Active in several programs at his school, Ota was a member of the cross country and track and field teams, counselor for freshman orientation, as well as a volunteer at the Sakura Kai Senior Center.

Brittany Nakamura of Skyline High School in Oakland will attend Whittier College as an undeclared major. As a member of the Oakland Kiwanis Key Club, she participated in several volunteer activities, assisted the East Bay Buffaloes with the Special Olympics Track Meet, and was active with the Oakland/Fukuoka Sister City Association. Active in the Buddhist Church of Oakland, Nakamura is serving as the organization’s co-president.

Tomiyuri Lewis of Asawa SOTA (School of the Arts) High School in San Francisco will enroll at UCLA as a human biology and society major. Strong in her artistic abilities, she is active in her school’s theater department, designing and producing original costumes for school musicals. She is the founder and president of Live to Love Volunteer Club, which is designed to involve youth with the arts.

Robert Schneider of Rio Lindo Adventist Academy in Healdsburg will attend UC Davis as a pre-physician’s assistant major. He plays cello as part of the school’s orchestra, which performs at several churches in California. He has also been a four-year volunteer counselor at the Redwood Creek Camp.

James Duff Jr. and George Yoshida were presented with the chapter’s Pioneer Award, which honors those with the vision, compassion, and energy to lay a foundation for building the Japanese American community into the active and vibrant one we share today, as well as linking past leaders with our future leaders.

Duff has served as the chapter’s president. He is a team member of the JACL National Convention Constitution and Bylaws Committee and was most recently appointed as Pacific Citizen representative for the Northern California-Western Nevada-Pacific District.

Yoshida was honored posthumously for his many years of inspiring generations of Asian American musicians with his passion as a musician and a mentor. His was well known for organizing and playing drums in his local 17-piece swing band, known as the J-Town Jazz Ensemble. A lifelong educator, he remained active leading East Bay seniors in exercise as part of the Berkeley Nikkei Seniors and J-Sei (formerly Japanese American Services of the East Bay) programs.

The chapter recognized long-time major sponsors Union Bank (Cassandra Vincent), Wells Fargo Bank (Jonathan Shindo), and memorial scholarship donors: the Beatrice Kono family (George Kono), the Terry Yamashita family (Reiko Nabeta), and the Dan/Kathleen Date family (Gail Yamamoto).

The Scholarship Committee includes Mark Fujikawa, Vera Kawamura, Michael Oguro, Neal Ouye, Al Satake, Sharron Sue, and Ron Tanaka (chair).



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