SACRAMENTO — The Florin Japanese American Citizens League is proud to announce the selection of two outstanding students from the Sacramento area as recipients of its 2014 scholarship awards.

Each applicant was judged on achievements in academics, school and community involvement, and community service as shown in the written application and personal interview. This year’s recipients are both college students pursuing degrees in education and science.

• Leesa Kakutani, daughter of Cindy and Kenneth Kakutani, attends California State University Long Beach, where she is working toward a bachelor of science degree in biology with a minor in physiology and chemistry. Her plan is to go on to medical school and become a pediatrician as she is passionate about helping others and loves children.

Leesa and parents
Leesa Kakutani and her parents, Kenneth and Cindy.

Leesa is very active at CSULB, where she holds many leadership positions in her sorority, Delta Delta Delta. She also serves as a webmaster and senator of the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics. She is active in many campus activities and also continues to work as a swim instructor and lifeguard.

A 2012 graduate of Elk Grove High, she was a student body leader and a member of the swim team, was active in many clubs, and excelled in academics. Leesa has been an Obon odori dancer and leader at the Florin Buddhist Church and served many roles for the Jr. Young Buddhist Association.

She volunteered in the Summer Youth Basketball program for the Sacramento Asian Sports Foundation and coached a SASF girls’ basketball team. She participated in the Florin JACL Mochi Madness and helped with the Florin Obon dance workshops.

Leesa made the Dean’s List in 2012 and 2013, and is a lifetime member of the National Society of Collegiate Scholars.

As a result of her experiences during her 2012 Hiroshima Student Exchange Program, she states, “With the experiences and friendships I have made from that one trip to Japan, I plan to continue to spread international peace and relations by volunteering to practice medicine in other countries, especially Third World countries in need of help. I have always wanted to contribute to making the world a better place for our youth and after becoming a pediatrician, I hope to do just that.”

• Elizabeth Uno, daughter of Richard and Irene Uno, has participated in JACL functions from childhood as a member of an active JACL family. Her involvement extended beyond just participation as she undertook leadership roles that continue to this day.

Beth and her parents
Elizabeth Uno and her parents, Richard and Irene.

She currently serves on the National Youth Student Council as the NCWNP District youth representative, and is the newsletter editor for the Florin JACL. She interned for the Pacific Citizen through the Nikkei Community Internship program, attended the JACL-OCA Washington, D.C. Leadership Summit in 2013, and participated in the national JACL conventions in Chicago and Seattle. She served as a congressional intern at the U.S. House of Representatives in 2010, and as a Capitol office intern for State Sen. Carol Liu (D-Glendale) in 2010.

A 2007 graduate of John F. Kennedy High, she attended UCLA majoring in history and minoring in applied developmental psychology. While in college, she was involved with the Nikkei Student Union and Bruin Belles Service Association.

Upon graduation from UCLA, she worked for Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson’s education policy team, followed by a job at the Academic Senate at UC Davis. She recently earned her multiple subject teaching credential and is working on her master’s degree in education at UC Davis.

Beth stated, “I want to become a teacher and pursue a long-term career in the field of education because I have a passion for working with children . . . because many of my mentors and role models are teachers and principals . . . and as an aspiring Asian American female educator, I will work to ensure that all segments of the Asian American Pacific Islander community are equally represented in the field of education.”

Dr. Satsuki Ina, professor emeritus, CSU Sacramento, wrote in her endorsement of Beth, “As we look to our young people to carry forward the mission of social justice and historic preservation, we will need leaders like Beth Uno, who will bring all of her exceptional skills and talents to preserve and shape the future of our expanding definition of what it means to be Japanese American.”

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