The JACL currently supports three fellowships, named in honor of important Japanese-American leaders: Mike M. Masaoka, Norman Y. Mineta, and Daniel K. Inouye. These fellowships foster civic leadership development in recent college graduates and young professionals. Two individuals who recently completed fellowships through this program have San Jose ties: Korinne Sugasawara and Craig Shimizu.
Mineta Fellow Korinne Sugasawara
Last year, Korinne Sugasawara completed a year-long position as the 2014-2015 JACL Norman Y. Mineta Fellow. Based in Washington, D.C. at the national JACL offices, she worked on a variety of policy advocacy issues, including education, health care, and immigration. She also assisted with preparing content for the JACL Digest.
She co-organized the three-day JACL/OCA Leadership Summit in March 2015, which brought together members of Congress, government agency staff, and Asian Pacific American social justice leaders. Participants attended seminars to learn more about civil rights and advocacy strategies, and visited Congressional offices to advocate for immigration and education reform.
Seeing the need for a session on LGBTQ issues at the National JACL Convention last July, Sugasawara spearheaded and organized a very well-received plenary session. Along with the other National JACL staff, she worked on the many logistical details associated with the Convention.
She also had the opportunity to go to rallies, including the 50th Anniversary of the March on Selma, and a voting rights rally held in Roanoke, Virginia. These rallies were especially significant because of the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act.
Sugasawara enjoyed diving into the National JACL organization and learning about the many facets of public policy and advocacy while taking advantage of the many cultural attractions of D.C, such as the Smithsonian Institution, and the Kennedy Center.
In October, she began a position as one of only 18 fellows in the prestigious California Senate Fellows Program and will be working for Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson of District 19.
Sugasawara was a member of the San Jose Chapter, and is currently a member of the Sacramento JACL Chapter.
Q&A with Craig Shimizu
San Jose JACL Chapter member Craig Shimizu served as the 2014–15 Daniel K. Inouye Fellow. This fellowship program was created by the JACL to honor the late U.S. Senator and focuses on public policy advocacy. Currently, he is the Washington, D.C. Fellow, responsible for coordinating the 2015-2016 Kakehashi Project program that will send over 175 college students to Japan for a 9-day cultural exchange program.
Shimizu graduated from the University of Southern California with a degree in business administration. He served as an armor officer in the Army and was deployed to Afghanistan for nine months in 2013 in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. Shimizu will serve in Hawaii Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard’s office as a JACL Mike M. Masaoka Congressional Fellow beginning in January 2016.
What is the greatest lesson you learned through the Daniel K. Inouye fellowship?
The greatest lesson I’ve learned is the importance of being active and engaged. The Inouye fellowship has taught me that there are so many opportunities to get involved, to speak out, and to contribute toward making your community and country a better place.
What’s something interesting you’ve learned about Senator Inouye himself?
Throughout the fellowship, I learned a lot about Senator Inouye’s legislative legacy. I was surprised to learn that Senator Inouye was one of the original sponsors of the bill creating Asian Pacific American Heritage month in 1977, and in 2009, he worked to secure over $38 million dollars in grants to preserve and interpret the World War II Japanese American confinement sites.
What is the most rewarding aspect of being a D.C. Fellow?
The opportunity to have your voice heard and affect some of the most important issues of our time is not only the most rewarding aspect of this fellowship but the most inspiring as well.
(by Christy Chung)