During a scavenger hunt,
Nick Yamamoto clutches the Toyo Miyatake replica camera
as Ryuta Shimoida, Sam Abe and Kara Tanaka pose. (Photo by Cyril Nishimoto)

The Nikkei Federation announces its 12th annual Rising Stars Youth Leadership Program for high school students.

The program is scheduled to take place on selected Saturdays from Oct. 18, 2014 through March 28, 2015 at the Japanese American Cultural and Community Center in Little Tokyo. The JACCC is the venue sponsor for the program and The Rafu Shimpo is the media sponsor.

The goal of the program is to provide leadership skills to high school youth and inspire them to cultivate an ongoing involvement with the Japanese American community by presenting a series of active, engaging workshops on a variety of leadership topics. Participants will gain experience in community service and learn about the Japanese American experience as well as learn how to work in groups.

“We understand that the future of our community lies in the hands our youth,” said Ron Dyo, chair of the Rising Stars Youth Program. “The program was established 12 years ago to reach out to youth to give them an opportunity to gain skills and introduce them to the Japanese community. We just celebrated our 10-year anniversary in July and it was gratifying to see our alumni and to learn first-hand how the skills that are taught in this program have helped the participants in their academic, professional and community endeavors. And, our goal is to reach out to more youth in our community with the hope that they will come back to the community as leaders.”

The six interactive workshops are led by professional trainers who are also community leaders from a variety of backgrounds and industries. The topics are:

• “Team Work,” where the students will learn about different personality types and how best to deal with personalities that are similar to and different from their own;

• “Assertiveness” explores the advantages and disadvantages of assertive versus passive behavior in school and at work and where to draw the line between assertive and overly assertive behavior;

• The “Speak to Persuasive” workshop teaches the practical elements of an effective presentation, including the importance of body language, eye contact, voice modulation, and hand gestures as well as structuring the speech;

• “Financial Fitness” will introduce the students to basic and practical financial skills;

• “Cultural Values” is a workshop designed to recognize stereotype-based biases that may affect the students in their education and careers and how to deal with them.

• “Networking,” a workshop in which the students will learn the benefits of networking and will receive practical tips on how to approach and talk to people in a variety of settings.

Outings are designed to introduce the students to historic Little Tokyo and include a tour of the Japanese American National Museum, a walking tour, and a scavenger hunt.

Students also plan and execute a group project, engage in special planning meetings, and participate in cultural and social activities. The 10-session program concludes with a graduation reception. Two additional group project and social activities take place at an off-site location. Optional parent activities are also scheduled.

Feedback from past participants has been overwhelmingly positive. The students have said the program has helped them in their academic careers and personal lives, and has given them a greater awareness and appreciation of the Japanese American community.

“The speakers we had taught us practical skills as well as a better understanding of our culture,” said Nicole Elby, a graduate of the fifth Rising Stars program. “We learned about our cultural values and how to find a balance between being a doormat and being overbearing. I especially gained from the sessions about how to work in groups and the importance of networking. I’ve already implemented the networking skills, which really helped me with a school project!”

Nicholas Hanashiro, a Rising Stars 10 alumnus, offered, “The final two workshops to me were some of the most enlightening. ‘Cultural Values’ and ‘Networking.’ The first talked about all of the cultural values common to Japanese people, and every time they would read another one, I would think to myself, ‘SO THAT’S WHY I THINK THAT.’ A mind-blowing characterization of myself in which I never knew that the values I held so close were cultural values instilled into me by my parents and their parents before them, and I assume their parents to them. Understanding your culture and your heritage, I learned, is one of the most important tools in sculpting your future.

“The last of the sessions was one dealing with networking, so the importance of building relationships, right? WRONG. From this session I was reassured that life would turn out all right. It’s a stressful time in a kid’s life waiting for college acceptances. Trying to decide at 17 or 18 the rest of our lives can be pretty difficult. When Mr. (John) Kobara spoke about his life though the networking was an underlying theme however I felt that the true message was that if you follow your heart, do your best and pursue that which you are passionate about, then things will turn out OK. So for life, it was reassuring.”

Enrollment is limited to 25 maximum. Applications and supporting documents must be postmarked by Saturday, Sep. 6. Participants must be enrolled in high school. Applications are available online and can be submitted online at www.nikkeifederation.org/risingstars/application.html. For information, visit www.nikkeifederation.org/risingstars.

A program fee of $200 per student will be charged upon acceptance. Fee includes lunch and snacks for workshop sessions. The program cost exceeds the participation fee and the Nikkei Federation must raise funds to present the program. For sponsorship opportunities, visit www.nikkeifederation.org or contact Glenn Nakatani at P.O. Box 4235, Covina, CA 91723, call (626) 915-5338, fax (626) 915-2699, or email risingstarsyouth@gmail.com. The Nikkei Federation is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization.

Members of Rising Stars 11 participate in an icebreaker exercise on the JACCC Plaza as part of the teamwork session. From left: Yuki Mano, Sharyse Watanabe, Dani Yang, and Erika Higa on the mat with (from left) Ariel Imamoto, Bryron Brown, Hiro Ozaki, and Lindsay Taguchi looking on.

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