Scholarship award ceremony at the 2023 OAA Picnic. From left: Isla Walker accepting on behalf of Emi Reese Takara, Linnea Takara Tamaki, Alex Yoshiaki de la Cueva Tamanaha, Luke Matsunaga, Lauren Miya Konishi, Crystal Rika Kamiyama, Taye James Reiss, OAA President Edward Kamiya.

On July 16, the Okinawa Association of America, Inc. (OAA) hosted their annual picnic at Whittier Narrows Recreation Park in South El Monte.

Despite the temperature staying in the 90s, the day was filled with games (including a much-needed water balloon toss tournament), live performances, raffle drawings, the only All-Okinawan Bon Dance in Southern California, and an awards ceremony for this year’s OAA High School Scholarship recipients.

A tradition dating back to the 1930s, the OAA recognizes and rewards graduating high school seniors of Okinawan descent in Southern California. OAA family membership is required to apply and the selection process is based on the student’s academic accomplishments, extracurricular activities, community contributions, transcript, letters of recommendation, financial need, and essays (including the prompt “What does being Okinawan mean to you?”). Special consideration is given for community hours at the OAA.

This year’s recipients are Linnea Takara Tamaki (Shoan and Shizuko Yamauchi Scholarship), Alex Yoshiaki de la Cueva Tamanaha (Joe and Yoko Higashi Scholarship), Luke Matsunaga (Chosuke Miyahira Scholarship), Emi Reese Takara (Charles M. and Yoshiko Kamiya Scholarship), Lauren Miya Konishi (Masayuki and Tamako Kishimoto Scholarship), Crystal Rika Kamiyama and Taye James Reiss.

The five named scholarships are in honor of the generous donations from the respective families. Non-named scholarships are also given thanks to the generous donations of OAA members.

OAA President Edward Kamiya read a short biography of each student during the awards ceremony, acknowledging who their parents are and their academic achievements. The short biographies will be featured in the next issue of the OAA’s quarterly newsletter.

With increases in tuition fees and other related expenses, not to mention the hardships experienced during the peak of the pandemic, the OAA hopes that the scholarship awards will assist each student in their journeys toward success.

The OAA is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that is dedicated to preserving and promoting Okinawan culture. Formed by first generation Okinawan immigrants (Issei), the OAA has grown into a multi-generational organization that hosts numerous events throughout the year, including cultural lectures, performances, social gatherings, and senior-focused activities. 2024 will mark the organization’s 115th anniversary as well as the 25th anniversary of the OAA Center in Gardena.

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