Craig Ishii has dedicated his career to the development of
the next generation of Japanese American community leaders. In his various community roles, Craig has worked with thousands of youth over the last decade.
During his tenure with Kizuna, Craig has led the
organization’s development of its highly effective leadership development pipeline, a strategy which is lauded for its ability to create a unique age-specific experiences, and successive educational experiences for all ages
of the next generation. This pipeline is responsible for the development of key new leadership within the Japanese American community. During this time, he
also co-authored a children’s book entitled, Thank You Very Mochi, an engaging story about the importance of
family relationships and cultural traditions.
Craig also serves on the Board and was the previous Chair of the Little Tokyo Community Council, a neighborhood council of over 90 Little Tokyo nonprofits, businesses, residents and other community stakeholders successfully coordinating community concerns on a number of critical community issues. Previous to his work at Kizuna, he served as a Regional Director of the Japanese American Citizens League, a national civil rights organization. He was
the youngest to serve in both of these positions.
Craig earned his Masters in Public Administration with a Certificate in Nonprofit Management in 2010 and is a 2007 graduate of UCLA.
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.
Paul Matsushima is program manager at Kizuna. In his role, he manages several of Kizuna’s key leadership programs and staff with the goal of developing young people’s leadership skills, cultural appreciation, civic engagement, and commitment to the future of the Nikkei community. Outside of Little Tokyo, he has served in various capacities in the Asian American faith community, including AAPI Christians for Social Justice. Paul is married and has a son named Marty.
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 of that has inspired her, as part of her role as Development Coordinator.
Dina Furumoto is currently the Marketing Coordinator at Kizuna. She graduated from Cal Poly Pomona in 2015 with a B.A. in Sociology with an emphasis in
Criminology and a minor in Political Science. Dina has had interned in numerous organizations in the Japanese American community. In 2011, she participated in Kizuna’s Nikkei Community Internship and was placed the East San Gabriel Valley Japanese Community Center. Dina also served as an Exhibition’s intern at the Japanese American
National Museum under the Getty Multicultural Undergraduate Internship, as well as a Social Media intern at Keiro. With her combined internships and experiences, she has been able to participate in various organizations in the Japanese American community. Working with Kizuna has allowed Dina to continue to pursue her passions of giving back and being involved in the community.
Dina also shares a deep passion of baking and Kizuna has helped pursue her pastry dreams by allowing her to be a host of their cooking show called Dinner with Deeners.
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.
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.
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.
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 8 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.
Alex Margolin is the Project Manager for the Mellon Funded Digital Humanities Initiative at the Claremont Colleges. She comes from a background in Ethnic Studies, non-profit project management, and grassroots media production having spent the last 6 years working on non-profit and higher education grants. Prior to joining Claremont's Digital Humanities team, Alex was the Program Specialist of the Media Activism & Participatory Politics (MAPP) project at USC which examined participatory models of youth activism and was responsible for the project's outward facing programming with activists and educators.
She received her B.A. in history from Pitzer College and an M.A. in Asian American Studies from UCLA. Her research interests include: social constructions of multiraciality through foodways, social justice learning, and alternative modes of storytelling.
Mickie Okamoto-Tsudama, MPA 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 currently serves as an Event Co-Chair of Kizuna’s Annual Family Showdown and serves as a workshop facilitator; As a new mom, Mickie passion to challenge the next generation to find their 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.
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.
Kim Yamasaki is the Executive Director of the Center for Asian Americans United for Self Empowerment (CAUSE), a local nonprofit that works to empower the Asian Pacific American (APA) community to be politically active and civically engaged through voter outreach, education, and training as well as through leadership development programs. In her position, Kim manages and oversees the entire organization’s staff and programs including the annual fundraising gala as well as the Leadership Academy, Political Institute, Veterans Initiative, Women in Power, and VOTE (voter outreach, training, and education) programs. Kim is passionate about finding creative and innovative ways to appeal to the younger generation of future community leaders and voters.
Prior to CAUSE, 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.
Staci Yamashita-Iida is a lifelong native of the South Bay. After attending North Torrance High School, she graduated from Loyola Marymount University as a Valedictorian Finalist and Leadership Scholar with degrees in
Political Science, Asian and Pacific Studies, and Theater Arts. She then received her Juris Doctor from Southwestern Law School's accelerated 2-year accelerated program, where she was an editor for the Journal of International
Law Honors Program.
Professionally, Staci serves as the head attorney of the Estate Planning Department at Elder Law Services, a law firm focusing on the creation of Wills, Trusts, Powers of
Attorney, and other ancillary documents.
Within the community, Staci is an active member of the Go For Broke National Education Center and Japanese American Bar Association. In addition, she regularly contributes articles to the JACL's Pacific Citizen newspaper.
Staci began her involvement with Kizuna several years ago through the Board Fellowship Program. Since then, she has been a member of the 5th Anniversary Committee, Roast and Toast Committee, and recently joined the Board of Directors. She is excited and honored to continue her participation in the organization in her newly appointed role.