Almost 100 members and friends of the JACL gathered on Wednesday evening, May 1, 2013 at Four Rivers Cultural Center to honor 10 local high school seniors. It was an enjoyable dinner filled with inspiring speeches and humor, as mistress of ceremonies Cathy Yasuda unveiled her yellow dress with accompanying green beads and pulled out a University of Oregon duck and yellow pompom to counter the Oregon State University banner hanging on the podium and the many OSU alumni in the room. Each of the 8 seniors present talked about their plans for the future, which included college for all them in the fall. Rickey Kamimae of Payette provided the senior response and spoke about how JACL has helped her to learn about her heritage and has provided a larger sense of community and pride.
The keynote speaker was Ariko Iso, the head football trainer at Oregon State University. She gave a very inspirational talk about her life and her journey from Tokyo to OSU, to San Jose State University, to Portland State University, to the Pittsburgh Steelers and back to OSU in 2011. She has been the ONLY female head athletic trainer in the NFL, but that was not her original goal. She wanted to be a trainer in the National Basketball Association (NBA), but she is grateful where her life’s work has taken her and she enjoys going to work every day. Ariko says she has been fortunate to have gone to 8 NFL playoff games and 3 Super Bowls. She was never intimidated by super star athletes, since she didn’t know who they were as she worked 6 days a week and didn’t spend Sundays watching NFL games. One of the coaches told her that everyone’s elbows and knees are still just elbows and knees, no matter who’s body they are on. She never thought that being Asian or female hindered her employment possibilities since she just wanted to be known as an athletic trainer. She reminded the graduates that you need to love what you are doing, that you take one day at a time, and her motto is, “work hard and play hard”. Several of the seniors spoke to Ariko at the end of the evening since many of them are athletes and want to go into health related or physical therapy occupations.
The evening was capped off with the awarding of JACL leadership grants and scholarships. Long time JACL member Grant Kitamura presented $300. leadership grants to juniors Ashley Suyematsu, Cole Takasugi and Allysha Yasuda. Five scholarships were awarded to the following seniors: $1000. to Carly Iwasa of Payette, $1500. to Emily Maeda of Ontario, $1500. to Max Maeda of Ontario, $2000. to Rickey Kamimae of Payette, and $2000. to Kole Nakamura of Ontario.