Inspired by her parent's dedication and service to their community and families, Michelle has always been interested in community service and leadership development. Michelle graduated from UC Irvine
in 2012 with a BA in Anthropology. At UC Irvine she was active and involved in the Nikkei Student Union (Tomo No Kai) and Taiko group (Jodaiko). It was through these clubs that she learned more about the Japanese American
experience, and the strength of youth action.
After graduation, she continued her education at the University of Southern California (USC) to achieve her Masters of Arts in Teaching (M.A.T) with an emphasis and certificate in gifted education. Michelle completed her student teaching at both the high school level (at the California Academy of Math and Science) and middle school level (Dodson Math and Science Magnet). Additionally, she has taught and volunteered at various schools in the Torrance Unified School District. During her time teaching, she shared new technologies and forms of teaching in her classrooms. Through interactive
videos, creative forms of discussion, and real-life application of school work, she was able to create an engaging environment for her students.
The Gardena Valley JCI (GVJCI) offered her the
opportunity to apply her teaching skills and create programs and social services available to the South Bay community. The GVJCI saw an expansion of programs both in quantity and variety. In addition to growing the program base, she helped write the new mission and vision statement for the organization.
Scott Shima is currently the Marketing Coordinator at Kizuna. He graduated from UC Riverside in 2016 with a B.A. in Theatre. Scott has been involved with Kizuna and its programs since he was a high school senior and has continued to stay involved through college as a volunteer, counselor, and director.
When Scott isn’t at Kizuna, he is coordinating the non-paid in-park talent for the Disneyland Resort with Disney Performing Arts. Aside from community work, Scott does improv and sketch comedy around Los Angeles with various groups.
Working for Kizuna has given him the unique opportunity to learn different content creating programs, giving him the needed skills to go out and create.
Megan grew up in the South Bay and participated in the Japanese American community by playing FOR basketball and dancing hula at a young age. She credits her parents for providing ample opportunities to be connected to the community. It was not until college, however, where Megan began to be exposed to the issues facing the Japanese American community, with the help of Kizuna. She was first
introduced to Kizuna through the Nikkei Community Internship in 2015, where she interned with a multicultural ad agency TDW+Co. There, she witnessed the variety of ways people can participate in the Japanese American community and how imperative it is for young people to do so. Because of this positive experience, Megan has since helped out as a counselor for Kizuna’s Summer Camp and Leadership programs, as well as a Co-Director for our South Bay Summer Camp location.
Since graduating from UC Santa Barbara this past June and coming on staff with Kizuna shortly after, Megan is constantly inspired by the work Kizuna does in the community. She is excited to ensure that Kizuna is able to sustain the very mission that has inspired her, as part of her role as Development Coordinator.
Starting off as a volunteer for Kizuna’s Service Learning Program in 2015 (formerly known as Student Success Institute), Hideki Fukusumi was involved with Kizuna for two years before being hired on as a Program Coordinator for Leadership and Service Learning. As a child, Hideki was involved with kendo and Japanese language school at the East San Gabriel Valley Japanese Community Center (ESGVJCC), but didn’t have too much exposure to the Japanese American community until college.
During his undergraduate time at Cal State Fullerton he became an Asian American Studies major, where he studied the experience of Asian migration and acculturation in the United States with a class specifically on the incarceration experience of Japanese Americans during WWII. It was during this time that he began to explore concepts of social equity and activism, leading to his interest in working with other college students to help with issues of access, retention, and cognitive development. In 2014 he Graduated from Cal State Long Beach with a Masters of Science in Counseling, Student Development in Higher Education, and has been working with multiple institutions in the California Community College system.
In addition to his work in education and with Kizuna, he also serves as a consultant for a community based organization called #VigilantLOVE that does work combating Islamaphobia as well as providing safe education and discussion spaces for the Muslim community. In his spare time he does creative work as a tastemaker doing event production, spoken word/music production, and other random odd jobs.
Taylor Weik is Kizuna’s Administrative Assistant. After being able to immerse herself in two of Kizuna’s programs –– she participated as a summer Leadership counselor, and served as a community engagement intern at CAUSE through the 2017 Nikkei Community Internship –– Taylor is excited to work with the organization that has taught her so much, and whose values align closely with her own.
Working in Little Tokyo has proved to be a full-circle experience for Taylor. She cites her childhood visits to LT and JANM, where she learned about the kinds of stories that weren’t documented in her history books, as a major influence in shaping her passions for cultural preservation, education, and storytelling.
Prior to her nonprofit involvement, Taylor worked as a freelance writer specializing in AAPI stories. Her work has appeared in publications such as Kinfolk, OC Weekly, and the OC Register, and she regularly contributes to NBC Asian America. She graduated from UC Irvine in 2015 with B.A.s in Asian American Studies and Literary Journalism.
Janet Hiroshima is the Associate Director of
Stewardship at UCLA Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science. Janet oversees the donor relations and stewardship activities for UCLA Engineering and works to create opportunities for donors to experience the impact of their gift to the school through events and engagement with students.
Prior to working at UCLA Engineering, she was at the Japanese American Cultural and Community Center (JACCC) for over seven years, most recently, as the Development Manager. At the JACCC, Janet worked in various roles for the organization on programs, fundraising and special events focused on building community through arts and culture. During college, she was a member of the CSULB Nikkei Student Union and after graduation she participated in the Nikkei Community Internship (NCI), a program now run by Kizuna, at the Little Tokyo Service Center. Janet currently serves as the Vice-Chair on the Kizuna Board of Directors and is dedicated to continuing to build community through the engaging the next generation.
Janet was born and raised in San Jose, California. She earned her B.A. in Human Development and a certificate in Gerontology from Cal State Long Beach and her master’s degree in Public Administration with a certificate in Nonprofit Management from Cal State Northridge.
Amy Watanabe brings her experience of program development and community-based outreach to Nakatomi & Associates. Amy has worked with local and national non-profit organizations, and spent time in Washington, D.C., doing advocacy work and developing the political pipeline and leadership for Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders both locally and nationally.
Amy was born and raised in Los Angeles, and received her Bachelor’s degree in Communication Studies and minor in Asian American Studies from the University of California, Los Angeles. She additionally serves on the Board for the National Japanese American Memorial Foundation and Venice-West Los Angeles Chapter of Japanese American Citizens League.
Brandon Masashige Leong is the Director of Programs and Strategic Partnerships with Keiro and oversees its grantmaking initiative and other programs to support older adults and caregivers in our community. Prior to joining the staff at Keiro, he was the program director at East San Gabriel Valley Japanese Community Center.
An Eagle Scout, Brandon is an active volunteer with the Boy Scouts of America. He served two years as course director of the National Youth Leadership Training program for the Boy Scouts and now serves as the area coordinator for youth leadership development, overseeing training for the Southern California area. He has served as a troop scoutmaster and on staff for numerous training courses.
In addition to serving on Kizuna’s board, Brandon previously served as a member of the ESGVJCC Board of Directors and president of the Sabers/Saberettes Youth Basketball Organization. He also serves on the marketing committee for the Council on Volunteer Administration.
Brandon Okita is currently the Vice President at FIA
Insurance Services, Inc., whom he joined upon graduating from the University of California, Irvine. In addition to his responsibilities as a risk manager and trusted advisor to his clients, Brandon has also been very involved in both his
local, state and federal insurance associations, having served as the President of the Los Angeles chapter of the Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers Association, Chair of California state association’s Young Brokers & Agents committee, and currently serving on the Diversity Task Force for the National Big “I” Association. Outside of the insurance industry, Brandon currently serves as a fundraising committee member for the Budokan of Los Angeles, which is a multi-purpose gym that will break ground in Little Tokyo in 2017 and also serves as the Co-Director for the LABCC Youth Camp, which is a weeklong summer youth camp in the San Bernardino Mountains.
Jill oversees risk management and legal affairs for the organization. Her private practice focuses on estate and tax planning, trust administration/litigation, and probate.
Jill developed a strong sense of devotion for the non-profit sector as a beneficiary of a goodwill ambassador program with the Nisei Week Foundation nearly 10 years ago. This experience gave her a deep appreciation for how non-profits seek to better the community and the lives of those around her. Today, Jill continues to be a strong advocate of non-profit organizations by providing pro bono legal services at the Legal Aid Society of Orange County as well as sitting on the board of a youth organization called Gardena Evening Optimist Club.
Kari Kadomatsu is an Orange County native where she received her B.A. in Economics from the University of California, Irvine and JD/MBA from Chapman University. In 2013, she relocated to Downtown Los Angeles to join the law firm of Seki Nishimura & Watase, LLP. Through her work at the firm, Kari gained an appreciation for the importance of community involvement and taking advantage of opportunities to give back. This eventually led to an introduction to Kizuna.
Prior to joining the board, Kari participated in the Next Generation Leadership program offered by Kizuna and continued her involvement by serving on several committees including for the annual Showdown and Kizuna's 5th Anniversary celebration. Additionally, along with the SNW firm, Kari assisted Kizuna in acquiring its 501c(3) and state exemption status.
In her free time, Kari enjoys annual Mammoth fishing trips with her family, exploring downtown while walking her puppy, Miso, and trying the newest and most delicious happy hours.
Mickie Okamoto-Tsudama, MPA, PHR is a human resources professional at Loyola Law School. She is a University of California, Los Angeles graduate and received her Masters in Public Administration from Cal State Northridge. Mickie is a bilingual-bicultural Shin-Nisei and was born and raised in South Pasadena. Mickie became involved in the JA Community at UCLA where she served as the External Vice President ('06-'07) and President of the Nikkei Student Union ('07-'08). During this time, she was a leader in the Intercollegiate Nikkei Council, co-chairing the ReVISIONS Nikkei Youth Conference in 2006. She served as an Event Co-Chair of Kizuna’s Annual Family Showdown from 2011 - 2016 and as a workshop facilitator from 2011 - 2014. She is currently the chair of the Board of Governance committee. As a mom to her now toddler, Mickie's passion to challenge the next generation to find their multi-cultural identity and encourage community engagement is now even stronger. She looks forward to having her daughter be a part of the 2024 class of Nikkei Discovery Camp.
Megan has been intimately involved with Kizuna, even prior to its inception, as a former participant, counselor and facilitator of Kizuna’s youth leadership programs. She is excited to bring her passion and energy to further Kizuna’s mission of educating, empowering and engaging the next generation of Japanese Americans.
While earning her B.A. in Communication Studies and Marketing at CSU Long Beach, Megan served in multiple leadership roles on campus including president of CSULB’s Nikkei Student Union. Upon graduation, Megan spent a year abroad teaching English in Japan and returned to LA, where she interned with the Los Angeles Lakers’ community relations department.
Currently, Megan works as the Development and Membership coordinator for the Earl Burns Miller Japanese Garden, CSULB - where she manages fundraising initiatives and provides leadership for the Garden’s membership program. Megan is humbled to serve as First Princess of the 2016 Nisei Week Court - volunteering and representing the Southern Californian JA Community at hundreds of community events throughout the year.
Craig is head of the Consumer Engagement division at IW
Group, an Asian-American advertising and marketing communications firm based in Los Angeles, where he serves as the account lead and strategist for many of the agency’s key clients, including Lexus, McDonald's, and Wells Fargo.
He is an expert in developing and executing results-driven
communications and outreach campaigns targeting the Asian-American community. For over five years, he served as a key account lead for California Department of Health Services anti-tobacco campaign, helping drive
strategies to create social norm and attitude change regarding tobacco use among Asians in California. He has also worked on many of the country’s notable social marketing and public educations campaigns, including enumeration, childhood obesity prevention, water conservation, hepatitis B prevention, and others.
Craig serves on the board of several Little Tokyo-based
organizations including the Japanese American Cultural and Community Center and Japanese American Community Services, Inc.
Stacy Toyota works in human resources in the Cable Entertainment Group at NBCUniversal. Her client group includes the cable studios Universal Cable Productions and Wilshire Studios, whose content includes “Mr. Robot” and
“Suits” on USA Network, “Girlfriends Guide to Divorce” on Bravo, “The Magicians” on Syfy, “E! Live From the Red Carpet” on E! and “Difficult People” on Hulu, amongst others. She has also served in other HR roles previously
at NBCUniversal, including recruiting interns company-wide.
Prior to NBCUniversal, Stacy worked at various non-profit
organizations in Little Tokyo including JACCC, JACL PSW and CJACLC, where she worked on programming for high school and college students, as well as development
and fundraising. Through this work, Stacy and some of her peers realized that there was a need for more involvement of the next generation in the Japanese American and Little Tokyo community and formed what is now Kizuna.
Stacy is a native Angeleno with a BA in Human Development from UC San Diego. It was at UCSD where her passion for serving the Japanese American community was incited by her involvement with the Nikkei Student Union.
Kim Yamasaki is the Executive Director of the Center for Asian Americans United for Self Empowerment (CAUSE). In her position, Kim manages and oversees the entire organization, including its staff, programs, and fundraising efforts. Kim is passionate about finding creative and innovative ways to appeal to the younger generation of future community leaders and voters.
Prior to her current role, Kim gained valuable work experience through internships and work with CAUSE, US Congressmember Judy Chu, the US House of Representatives Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, Imprenta Communications Group, and the UCLA Asian American Studies Center.
Kim was born and raised in Los Angeles. She received her Bachelor of Arts in Political Science with a concentration in International Relations and a minor in Asian Languages (Korean) from UCLA. In addition to Kizuna's Board of Directors, Kim also serves on the Community Advisory Council for SoCalGas.