By ELLEN ENDO, Rafu Shimpo
THOUSAND OAKS—For parents Glenn and Kristine Kawaguchi, graduation season 2022 has been, in a word, complicated.
Older son Justin, 23, recently received a master’s degree in health administration from the University of Southern California. Meanwhile, younger brother Carter, 18, recently graduated from Newbury Park High School and is headed for USC, where he will major in computational linguistics.
Although they are five years apart in age, their high school experience reveals similarities. Both served as senior class president, both were valedictorians, active in Key Club, and members of the swim team.
Carter credits his parents for encouraging them to be self-sufficient. Mom Kristine acknowledges, “We tried hard to make sure they didn’t feel that they had to compete with one another. They’re both very independent.”
“Our family raised us to be self-sufficient,” concurs Carter, adding that he and Justin recently had the opportunity to talk about what motivates them. Their conclusion: shared values.
As the two young men move to the next stage, however, they are following different paths.
Justin received a job offer to work in health administration from Bain & Company, a global consultancy firm. In April, Justin learned that he had been selected for the Fulbright Scholar Program, which includes an opportunity to teach English in Taiwan for one year.
“It’s exciting to be able to go to a new place and grow and be exposed to a new culture,” he said. “At the same time, it’s also very daunting. It’s the longest I will have spent outside of California ever.”
Bain has agreed to hold the job until Justin completes the Fulbright program.
Justin says his inspiration to serve his community and succeed academically stems from his grandfather, Tsukasa Saneto. When World War II erupted, Saneto was enrolled at USC. “He was forced to withdraw from the university, but he was one of the lucky Nisei who was able to return to USC to complete his degree after the war.”
Although Saneto passed away before Justin’s first birthday, family members have mentioned how Justin is reminiscent of his grandfather, who had a reputation for being a strong orator and a community-minded leader. Saneto was also the lone USC Trojan in a family filled with UCLA Bruins, another reason Justin admires his grandfather.
Justin has interned with the Little Tokyo Community Council and served as a docent at the Japanese American National Museum. He also sits on the National Board of the Japanese American Citizens League.
In the future, he hopes to bring back the experience of working in Taiwan and in the corporate world to become a leader who can help support and preserve the community’s legacy. “My long-term goal is to work in the global health space maybe 20 years down the line.”
Naturally, Mom and Dad are proud of their sons. “What impresses me most about them is that they had the motivation within them,” notes Kristine.
Growing up in Thousand Oaks, where there are very few Asian Americans and not many Japanese Americans, somehow, they had the confidence to try new things. They’re really good about being independent.
“They are so much more outgoing (than I was at their age) and willing to try things that I would have never done,” added Kristine. She admitted the two young men are also “kind of fearless.”