Categorized | Education

Big Isle student wins JACL scholarship

Colette Masunaga (Photo special to Hawaii 24/7)


Special to Hawaii 24/7

Colette Masunaga is the recipient of the Japanese American Citizen League Abe Hagiwara $1,500 scholarship.

Masunaga is a student at University of California, Davis, but spent the last quarter studying in Kyoto.

The following is her letter of acceptance:

I hope all of you are having a wonderful time at this year’s Ice Cream Social! Due to my quarter abroad study program in Kyoto, Japan I am unable to attend this year, but I wish you all a memorable and joyful experience.

Growing up, my grandparents were my idols. I didn’t get to see them as much as I would like, because I lived on the Big Island of Hawaii and they lived in Sacramento, but all the time I got to spend with them, and talk with them, is enough to cherish and remember fondly.

For my third grade book project I decided to write about a book call The Bracelet, by Yoshiko Uchida.

For those of you who may not know, it is about a young girl who is given a bracelet before she and her family are sent to the Japanese American Internment camps during World War II. When I read this book, it was the first time my mom told me that my grandparents were also in the camps.

My grandfather, Shigemi Kuroda, was sent to Poston, Ariz. and my grandmother, Lillian Kuroda, was sent to Jerome, Ark. I was curious and decided that part of my report would be an interview of my grandparents about their camp experiences.

I remember talking to my grandmother about the camps a lot … I distinctly remember her mentioning that she ate lamb soup, which to me sounded delicious.

She also told me that her family had to sleep in one room, which was a make shift horse stall … to which I responded by asking her if she could ride horses in the camps.

In retrospect I was pretty silly, but I am also grateful that my curiosity allowed me to ask questions and learn about my grandparents experience first hand.

Later on, my mother mentioned how surprised she was that my grandmother told me so much about her time in the camps. When my mother was growing up, she was always curious but when she tried to ask my grandmother any questions about the camps, she got a scolding.

When my mother first told me this, I was just excited because I felt special, but I realize now how blessed I was to have been able to ask those questions, even though they were from a third grader, because I can’t ask my grandparents questions anymore.

Though they maybe gone now, the family history they left behind is still with me, saved in memories, photos, and the stories they told.

Being a forth generation Japanese American, I take pride in understanding my family’s unique history, whether it be immigrating to California or Hawaii, working in the sugarcane plantations and coffee fields on the Big island, or having everything you have ever worked for, taken away from you in a matter of days and being forced to relocation just because of you were Japanese.

There have been so many experiences shared in my family alone, on both my mother and father’s side, which has contributed to the development of the person who I am today.

I am truly honored to be a recipient of this scholarship and would like to thank everyone who has guided me through to this point in my life.

To the Florin JACL Chapter and Scholarship Committee: Thank you so much for your support over these past years and thank you for providing the opportunity to better fund and enhance my undergraduate experience at the University of California, Davis.

Thank you very much,
Colette Mira Masunaga

— Find out more:
www.jacl.org

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