The former Nishi Hongwanji Buddhist Temple building, currently part of the Japanese American National Museum, will be the new home of Go For Broke National Education Center.
The former Nishi Hongwanji Buddhist Temple building, currently part of the Japanese American National Museum, will be the new home of Go For Broke National Education Center.

A groundbreaking ceremony for Go For Broke National Education Center’s (GFBNEC) new office and interactive exhibition space will take place at the historic Nishi Hongwanji Buddhist Temple on Saturday, May 2.

The ceremony, which begins at 11:30 a.m., will mark the beginning of the first phase of interior renovations and reconstruction of the 3,800-square-foot space by an award-winning Pasadena-based architect firm, McKently Malak.

Expected attendees include: GFBNEC Chairman Bill Seki; Rep. Lucille Roybal Allard; Los Angeles County Sheriff Jim McDonnell; Assemblymember Ed Chau; External Affairs Liaison for the Office of State Controller Thomas Wong; and Los Angeles Economic and Workforce Development Department General Manager Jan Perry.

For more than 25 years, GFBNEC’s mission has been to educate the public about the responsibilities, challenges, and rights of American citizenship by using the life stories of the Japanese American soldiers of World War II. Relocating to the heart of L.A.’s Little Tokyo provides an opportunity to grow collaboration with Japanese American stakeholders and the wider community-based organizations and businesses to preserve the Nisei soldier legacy, and its relevance to modern and future generations.

Ideally situated, the Historic Building, which is under a 20-year lease from the Japanese American National Museum (JANM), is directly across the courtyard from the museum, and adjacent to the Go For Broke Monument, which pays tributes to more than 16,000 Japanese American soldiers who served in segregated units during World War II.

The new space will also allow GFBNEC to significantly expand its roster of programming. Future highlights will include an immersive exhibition; lecture and educational opportunities; increased public engagement; and events.

“We are very fortunate to have the support and partnership of the Japanese American National Museum and are excited about starting this new chapter for our organization,” states GFBNEC President Don Nose. “I believe that our enhanced programming will offer a fresh perspective on the story of our veterans that will resonate with all Americans. Our new learning center and exhibition will complement the current visitor experience.

“Visitors will have a closer connection to the Japanese American World War II veterans through our monument; learn about their historic contributions at the world-renowned Japanese American National Museum; and act out their courage themselves in our new interpretive center — all within a few steps of each other.”

The first of its kind, the learning center and exhibit will be a full sensory experience designed to teach history, civics, and activism in a hands-on environment. Unlike a museum, the co-creative exhibit will use history as an actionable tool to confront modern issues in people’s lives today. The learning center and interactive exhibition will open in the spring of 2016. Go For Broke staff members will move into the building in mid-2015 following the completion of the first phase of construction.

The old Nishi Hongwanji Buddhist Temple is located at 369 First St. (near Central) in Los Angeles.

Since its formation in 1986, GFBNEC has been videotaping the oral histories of Japanese American veterans, and today has the largest collection of its kind in the country. The interviews have been incorporated into a complete curriculum with lesson plans and web-based project learning to share their story with youth across the country.

In 1999, GFBNEC dedicated the Go For Broke Monument in Little Tokyo. On the monument are the insignias of the 100th Infantry Battalion, 442nd Regimental Combat Team, Military Intelligence Service, 522nd Field Artillery Battalion, 232nd Combat Engineer Company, and1399th Engineer Construction Battalion.

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