Advancement

Good-Bye 2017 and Cheers to 2018!

January 17, 2018
Kizuna Staff

We all blinked and just like that, 2017 was over –– but that doesn’t mean that we didn’t have time to stop and reflect on what the past year brought us. It was an exciting year, full of growth and expansion! Not only did we open up a new location for our Summer Camp (Downtown LA) and serve more students, but this was the year we decided to go national by opening workshops in San Jose, Seattle, and Salt Lake City.

Behind the organization’s growth, the staff is also growing and learning. We bring you the reflections of the year from our staff:

Craig Ishii, Executive Director 

As the year comes to a close and we have a moment to think, my mind once again centers around Kizuna’s role in our community. I recently was privileged to moderate a panel discussion where I discussed the role of this current generation. It went something like this:

"I want to close out today’s panel with four words that I believe summarize the story of our generation: Past, Present, Future, and Gratitude. The struggles, the commitment, the achievement of the past has built a foundation in the present for this generation’s lives, success and dreams for the future, future achievement, future families, and future community.

But it is gratitude that weaves everything together. The Japanese American cultural value catch phrase is Kansha. Our kansha –– our gratitude –– is a recognition that we stand on the shoulders of the generations who have come before us. Our gratitude is the everyday fuel that powers our drive to give back to our community. And it is our gratitude that maintains the commitment to pass the legacy of our organizations, our values, and our culture from one generation to the next.

"Our kansha –– our gratitude –– is a recognition that we stand on the shoulders of the generations who have come before us. Our gratitude is the everyday fuel that powers our drive to give back to our community. And it is our gratitude that maintains the commitment to pass the legacy of our organizations, our values, and our culture from one generation to the next."

And that is the contribution of the next generation –– it’s not relegated to a specific field of work, or a single project, but instead, it is the establishment of what I call “systems of legacy”: the ongoing preservation, molding, and evolution of our community from this generation, to the next.”

As I reflect back on the 2017 year, I’m proud that Kizuna has grown in size and scope and has delivered our mission with increasing impact. I’m proud that Kizuna is at the forefront of the movement to pass down our community’s traditions, values, and expectations. I’m filled with gratitude for the multitudes of support from our community and excited for wherever it is that Kizuna goes next.

 

Michelle Yamashiro, Program Director

Happy New Year! I am so grateful to have the opportunity to work for and with such amazing students, volunteers, and staff members. It has been a wonderful first full summer and year with Kizuna. Reflecting back on this past year, I have gotten to know the Kizuna community so much better, and I look forward to the coming years. 

It is the people of this organization and community that fuel my passion to pass on culture, stories, and the legacy of giving back. As my first summer came to an end, I was, like many folks predicted, tired. However, at the same time, I’ve never been more motivated to continue creating, growing, and learning with our students and volunteers again. 

"It is the people of this organization and community that fuel my passion to pass on culture, stories, and the legacy of giving back."

I’m ready for 2018 and all the wonderful new memories it will bring. Happiness and health to you and your families!

Paul Matsushima, Program Manager

2017 was a year of appreciation. One of my fondest memories was of an elementary girl who attended our summer camp program in San Fernando. This was her second year attending, and at the end of the week, she wrote a kind note to all of the Kizuna staff and counselors and also donated $100 of her own money. She was so grateful for our program and what she gained from it, that she wanted to donate some of her own hard-earned money to show her great appreciation. 

"That small moment, for me, really captured what Kizuna is all about. It's about making a positive impact on our students lives, teaching them important life lessons, and then seeing our students live out those values in their daily lives."

That small moment, for me, really captured what Kizuna is all about. It's about making a positive impact on our students lives, teaching them important life lessons, and then seeing our students live out those values in their daily lives. 

Hideki Fukusumi, Program Coordinator

It’s been both a pleasure and an honor to be working for a vibrant, passionate organization like Kizuna. It’s given me an incredible opportunity to continue to grow as an educator and community member, while allowing me to connect with amazing future leaders through our programs. Whether it’s teaching empathy and communication through our Service Learning program, or talks about preserving community while discovering identity through our Leadership program, I continually find myself in awe with how thoughtful and intelligent all our students are. The fact that they’re getting early exposure to very complex and important concepts leaves me excited for the future that they hold.

"...I continually find myself in awe with how thoughtful and intelligent all our students are. The fact that they’re getting early exposure to very complex and important concepts leaves me excited for the future that they hold."

I’m looking forward to another fantastic year working alongside some of the most dedicated coworkers I’ve had the pleasure of growing with. I hope to learn just as much as I’m able to teach, and I hope everyone reading finds ways to do the same!

Taylor Weik, Administrative Assistant

Plenty of people I know have called 2017 a trying year –– I like to call it my Year of Trying. For years I’d been afraid to try things, but I just assumed the fear would eventually disappear with age, and that as an adult, I’d have enough pluck to take all the risks in the world. When I entered 2017, fully an adult, I realized it was naive of me to think that one day I’d wake up fearless. I realized that adults and heroes and leaders still have fears, but they push on in spite of them. With this new knowledge, I decided to spend my year trying things despite the anxiety and doubt that filled the recesses of my mind. My Year of Trying led me to Kizuna.

As a hapa kid from Orange County who grew up visiting Little Tokyo on weekends, I’d always been drawn to the Japanese American community and wanted to get involved, but I was also too timid to find a way in. This year, I decided to try. I was welcomed with open arms by the wonderful people in Kizuna’s network, where I soon found my place in the Internship program and as a counselor for Leadership. My summer internship left me wanting to explore a career in nonprofit even further, so I tried again, and I now work for Kizuna as a staffer. And in my current role as Administrative Assistant, I get to try new things every day, from event planning, to bookkeeping, to grant writing. Each day I feel incredibly humbled that I get to work in and for the community I’d always wanted to serve, alongside a staff of innovative folks who consistently try new things (and encourage me to dream big, too).

"Each day I feel incredibly humbled that I get to work in and for the community I’d always wanted to serve, alongside a staff of innovative folks who consistently try new things (and encourage me to dream big, too)."

2018 is going to be filled with chances to welcome new people to the community (the way I was welcomed), unforeseen challenges, and opportunities to grow and give back –– I’m excited to try them all!

Dina Furumoto, Marketing Coordinator

2017 was a year of community. Every day I feel so blessed to work with such a fun, creative, passionate, empowered, energetic team and I always feel deep gratitude to be working with such a tightly-knit group. Over the years that I’ve been working with Kizuna, it feels that I have a second family. Through my work, I’ve had the ability to connect with committed community members who continuously inspire me to find my purpose in not just my work, but in life.  But especially this year, I was able to experience the community coming together, whether it was going to my first Tanaka Farms and OCO Mochitsuki, to members supporting me through the year’s difficult times. It is so heart-warming to see and feel everyone coming together.

I think it is always great to see our participants grow and read their reflections that I publish on our blog. But as I write this reflection, I am reminded that I too am continuously growing and being educated and empowered through all my interactions with Kizuna.

"I think it is always great to see our participants grow and read their reflections that I publish on our blog. But as I write this reflection, I am reminded that I too am continuously growing and being educated and empowered through all my interactions with Kizuna."

It was a wonderful year full of volunteering and collaborating with various community members. And I am full of appreciation and gratitude for all the support and opportunities that have come my way through my work and the people I’ve met through Kizuna. I’m very excited for 2018 and cheers to the new year!

Megan Nagasaki, Development Coordinator

With 2017 coming to a close, it’s exciting to be able to reflect on the ways in which Kizuna has significantly marked my year. I could give an extensive synopsis of transitioning into “adult life” post-grad, but instead I feel incredibly blessed to say that joining the Kizuna staff, and more specifically the Kizuna family, has made this transitional year one of tremendous growth and gratitude. 

Whenever friends or family members ask about working at Kizuna, my favorite things I get to share are 1. I really enjoy my coworkers, 2. I really like my job because I get to see the direct impact my work has on the community, and 3. Coming to work actually makes my daily traffic-filled 1-hour commute worth it (???). Even though I’m hoping that the amount of time in the last one reduces, the fact still stands: Kizuna, its people, mission, and work make all the difference. 

"Even though I’m hoping that the amount of time in the last one reduces, the fact still stands: Kizuna, its people, mission, and work make all the difference."

Thanks to everyone who made 2017 and my first six months at Kizuna a blast— and that includes some of you! From my fun and intelligent students at South Bay Summer Camp/Leadership, to my thoughtful and engaging co-counselors, to the inspiring and welcoming community members, to my talented and motivating coworkers, to my dear family and friends, and everyone in between, I am so grateful. Cheers to 2018!

We look forward to sharing all our new adventures in 2018! Stay tuned and cheers to the new year.

 

Kizuna Staff

Kizuna is building a future for our community through the education, empowerment, and engagement of the next generation.