Janice Fukai (left) is presented the Asian Youth Center Community Spirit Award by William Fujioka, former CEO of L.A. County, and Michelle Freridge, AYC executive director.

SAN GABRIEL — Asian Youth Center recognized Alternate Public Defender Janice Fukai with its Community Spirit Award at its 29th anniversary celebration and awards dinner on Oct. 26 in San Gabriel.

Fukai is the first Asian American woman to serve as department head in the history of Los Angeles County. The Board of Supervisors praised her 2002 appointment and stated: “The current APD Chief Deputy Janice Fukai has been instrumental in the development and leadership of the department. The entire board has a lot of confidence in that office and her in particular.”

In 1993, the Board of Supervisors created the Alternate Public Defender’s Office to handle cases that conflict with the Public Defender’s Office. After what Fukai describes as “13 outstanding years with the public defender,” she transferred to the APD’s Office as its first chief deputy and faced the challenge of building a new county department “from scratch.”

In October 2016, the Board of Supervisors asked Fukai to expand her operation to include the Los Angeles County delinquency courts. Within two weeks of the board’s request, the APD was accepting cases in every delinquency court in the county. Today, the APD’s Office employs 300 lawyers, investigators, paralegals, clerical and administrative support staff.

AYC also recognized Michael Matoba with its President’s Recognition Award. He is a deputy district attorney and a member of the AYC Board of Directors. Born and raised in Torrance, Matoba graduated from Loyola Law School in 2005.

In pursuing his career as a deputy district attorney, he found he could ensure that people received a fair trial; something his grandparents did not receive as a result of Executive Order 9066 and the incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II. He began to work in the Pomona Victim Impact Program, a unit that specializes in sex crimes, physical and sexual child abuse, elder abuse and domestic violence, in 2012.

Honorees also included Cal State L.A. President William Covino, Educational Leadership Award; Chinese Parents Association for the Disabled, Community Partnership Award; and Sunny Slope Water Company, Business Partnership Award.

The event was emceed by Ted Chen, general assignment reporter with NBC4 Southern California, and Gigi Yam, media consultant. Opening remarks were made by AYC President Helen Romero Shaw.

The evening’s theme was “Full S.T.E.A.M. Ahead,” referring to science, technology, engineering, art and math.

Asian Youth Center is a community-based 501(c)3 nonprofit organization whose mission is to empower low-income, immigrant, and at-risk youth, of all communities, to overcome barriers to success through the provision of culturally and linguistically competent education, employment, and social services. For more information, visit www.asianyouthcenter.org.

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