Berkeley JACL Awards Scholarships and Honors Pioneer Recipients

May 25, 2015 • JACL, Politics

Pictured are (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) and Cole Yoshida (Pioneer Award for George Yoshida). Photo: Eric Kawamura

By P.C. Staff

The Berkeley JACL Chapter awarded scholarships to six high school seniors as well as presented Pioneer Awards to James Duff Jr. and George Yoshida (posthumously) during its May 3 awards luncheon, which was held at Spenger’s Fresh Fish Grotto in Berkeley, Calif.

High school honorees included Kenji Israels, Yumi Kobayashi, Tomiyuri Lewis, Brittany Nakamura, Eric Ota and Robert Schneider.
Israels, a senior at Albany High School, was awarded the Bea Kono Memorial Scholarship. Israels will enter the University of California, Merced, in the fall as an environmental engineering major. Among his many accomplishments, he served as president of the Hapa Club and placed first in the U.S. International Duo Piano Competition, as well as played with the Oakland Youth Orchestra.

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

Lewis, who attends Asawa SOTA High School in San Francisco, will enroll at the University of California, Los Angeles, as a human biology and society major. She is active in her high school’s technical theater costume production, where she designs and produces original costumes for school musicals, in addition to being the founder and president of Live to Love Volunteer Club, which is designed to involve youth with the arts.

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

Ota of Athenian High School in Danville, was awarded the Terry Yamashita Memorial Scholarship. He will attend the University of California, Santa Cruz, where he plans to major in computer science. He was active in several programs at his high school, among them the cross-country and track and field teams, and served as a freshman orientation counselor. Other extracurricular activities included volunteer work at the Sakura Kai Senior Center.

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

Duff and Yoshida (posthumously) 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 it shares today, as well as linking past leaders with future ones.

Duff has served as the Berkeley Chapter’s president, in addition to being a team member of the JACL National Convention Constitution and Bylaws Committee. He most recently was appointed as the Pacific Citizen Editorial Board representative for the Northern California Western Nevada Pacific District.

Yoshida, whose award was accepted on his behalf by Cole Yoshida, was honored for the many years he spent inspiring generations of Asian American musicians with his passion as a musician and mentor. He was well known for organizing and playing drums in his local 17-piece swing band known as the “J-Town Jazz Assemble.” A lifelong educator, he remained active by also leading East Bay seniors in exercise as part of the Berkeley Nikkei Seniors and JSei programs.

In closing, the chapter also recognized longtime major sponsors Union Bank (Cassandra Vincent), Wells Fargo Bank (Jonathan Shindo) and memorial scholarships donors such as the Beatrice Kono family (George Kono), the Terry Yamashita family (Reiko Nabeta) and the Dan/Kathleen Date family (Gail Yamamoto).

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

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