Identity

My Service Learning Experience - Caitlyn Sasaki

January 10, 2018
Caitlyn Sasaki

My name is Caitlyn Sasaki and this past fall, I participated in Kizuna’s Service Learning program. The program was an inspiring experience that allowed me to learn about my Japanese American culture, as well as how to interact with older adults from Project Kokoro. Before Service Learning, I was vaguely familiar with Japanese American culture. For a couple years in elementary school, I went to Japanese school at the Orange County Buddhist Church, and in 2010, my grandparents took me to Sendai, Japan.  

My twin sister, Brooke, and I in Japan in 2010.

In our home, we would use a few Japanese phrases and words such as Itadakimasu (いただきま) and Gochisousama (ごちそうさま). I grew up enjoying Japanese cuisine that my grandpa would cook for me, like curry, sukiyaki, katsudon, ramen, and udon. Some things, like sashimi, I hadn't even tried until 2017 (and I loved it!)

"Before joining, I was nervous about making friends and feeling comfortable with a new group." 

Originally, I decided to participate in Service Learning to meet my minimum of fifty community service hours required for National Honors Society. Before joining, I was nervous about making friends and feeling comfortable with a new group. However, from the very first meeting, I was instantly inspired by the counselors as well as the other high schoolers, and found myself looking forward to each Saturday during the week.

Our final Service Learning meeting.
"I found myself each week growing closer to the other students and I eventually formed friendships."

During the meetings, we would start off with an ice breaker that gave everyone a chance to bond and create a relaxed environment. I found myself each week growing closer to the other students and I eventually formed friendships. In addition, I created a bond with the Project Kokoro participants, specifically with Fred.

"In addition, I created a bond with the Project Kokoro participants, specifically with Fred."
Fred showed Aidan and I how to make inari sushi.

Each week, he would tell me fascinating stories of his past and childhood, like his time during internment. He taught me so much about Japanese American culture and introduced me to many classic Japanese recipes that I was able to share with my family, while I taught him how to use Uber. He was particularly interested in sharing Google Photos with me, which was very useful!

"He taught me so much about Japanese American culture and introduced me to many classic Japanese recipes that I was able to share with my family, while I taught him how to use Uber."

My first experience with Kizuna was incredible, and I made so many memories because of all of the amazing counselors, friends, and Project Kokoro participants. As we reached our final meetings, I found myself reflecting on the memories I had made and grew very nostalgic. 

"As we reached our final meetings, I found myself reflecting on the memories I had made and grew very nostalgic." 

I was sad that Service Learning was coming to a close, but I began to research what else I could do to continue with Kizuna. Now, I am interested in serving as a Junior Counselor and completing the Leadership program this summer. I would absolutely encourage others to participate, as the program allows for students to connect with their culture and make amazing friendships!

Caitlyn Sasaki

Caitlyn Sasaki is a sophomore at John F. Kennedy High School, who enjoys playing volleyball in her free time. She has a twin sister, Brooke, who also participated in Service Learning this fall, and a younger sister, Abigail.