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Participating in this year’s Takahashi Youth Ambassador Fellowship Program are (back row, from left) Toshio Kanazawa, Pierce Cavanaugh, Courtney Koyama, Caelynn Hwang, Marissa Otonari, Adam Schulze, Cullen Reilly and (front row, from left) Catherine Kamita, Junko Taniguchi and Alison Shikada.

Ten student members embark on a 12-day trip as a way to encourage young people to learn more about Japanese American culture and community, as well as ancestral ties to Japan.


 SAN FRANCISCO — Ten high school student members of the Takahashi Youth Ambassador Fellowship Program (Takahashi Program), organized by the Japanese Cultural and Community Center of Northern California and sponsored by the Henri and Tomoye Takahashi Charitable Foundation, embarked July 17 on a 12-day trip to Japan.

The Takahashi Program, now in its fifth year, is a follow-up program to the Shinzen Nikkei Youth Goodwill Sports Program. The structure of the Takahashi Program is based on the best practices, experiences, opportunities and activities of the Shinzen Program but focuses more on the leadership and civic development of youth to build a strong background and foundation for their future endeavors.

The program is invaluable in not only helping youth in the Japanese American community develop and define their identity but also helps to create future leaders for the community.

This year’s fellows include:

  • Pierce Cavanaugh, a 17-year-old senior at St. Ignatius College Preparatory in San Francisco
  • Caelynn Hwang, a 16-year-old junior at Hillsdale High School in San Mateo
  • Catherine Kamita, a 15-year-old junior at Mission High School in San Francisco
  • Toshio Kanazawa, a 16-year-old senior at Monte Vista High School in Danville
  • Courtney Koyama, a 17-year-old senior at Oakland Technical High School in Oakland
  • Marissa Otonari, a 16-year-old junior at Hillsdale High School in San Mateo
  • Cullen Reilly, a 17-year-old senior at St. Ignatius Preparatory in San Francisco
  • Adam Schulze, an 18 year old who will attend Harvey Mudd College in Claremont, Calif.
  • Alison Shikada, a 17-year-old senior at Presentation High School in San Jose
  • Junko Taniguchi, a 16-year-old junior at Lowell High School in San Francisco

The 10 chosen youth members participated in 12 intensive workshops that spanned two summers in preparation for the trip. In the workshops, the students were able to learn more about the history of Japanese Americans, as well as were given the opportunity to research and create their own family history books.

In addition, they participated in team-building activities, including a day at the Fort Miley Ropes Course; planned and coordinated an udon fundraiser to raise money for their activities during their trip; and began to understand the planning process and importance of setting goals, objectives and understanding how each step in planning aids to success.

This summer, the students took part in Japanese language workshops; organized a bake sale fundraiser to support an orphanage they will visit in Kobe; and broadened their leadership skills by planning elements of their own workshops, which have resulted in several intercultural activities in Kobe and special activities in Sendai and Kesennuma for Tohoku earthquake and tsunami survivors during their trip to Japan.

While in Japan, they will also have the opportunity to visit the Nagata Kodomo (orphanage) Home and the Kisen Wai Wai Mura, where they will experience traditional Japanese village life — farming, cooking and making their own chopsticks.

The Takahashi Program was developed by the JCCCNC in 2011 as a way to continue to encourage young people, particularly those of Japanese American heritage, to learn more about the Japanese American culture and community, as well as their ancestral ties to Japan.

The program incorporates the continued support and involvement of civic and community involvement and how individual citizens of any age can play a role in creating a better understanding and relationship with their foreign neighbors, particularly in Japan.

All Takahashi Program participants will receive a certificate of completion, as well as personal letters or certificates of commendation from the Consulate of Japan, United States Senate and House of Representatives members and California Senate and Assembly members.

For more information on the Takahashi Youth Ambassador Fellowship Program, contact Lori Matoba at the JCCCNC at (415) 567-5505.