By Christine Munteanu, Scholarship Committee Chair

You may think that I am required to say this as the Scholarship Committee chair, but I truly mean it when I say that the annual Scholarship Luncheon is my favorite JACL Chicago event.  I love that it is, by its very nature, an intergenerational event, one that visibly demonstrates the way the activism and leadership of the youth in our community is a continuation of the legacy of the community leaders that have come before us.  I find myself filled with hope in the resilience of our community as we connect the past, present, and future.  So it was with a heavy heart that the scholarship committee made the painful but necessary decision to cancel this year’s Scholarship Luncheon, which was planned for May 17. 

Thankfully, due to the generosity of our scholarship donors, JACL Chicago was still able to provide scholarships this year to support our awardee’s studies in the fall.  I am proud to share that we awarded five scholarships to the following students:

  • Iwaoka Memorial Scholarship: Eriko Darcy, graduating senior at Latin School of Chicago, entering Wellesley College
  • Mitzi Shio Schectman Memorial Scholarship: Elyse Monma, graduating senior at St. Francis High School, entering Marquette University
  • Miyasaki Family Scholarship (JMAS): Lily Ng, graduating senior at Evanston Township High School, entering Northwestern University
  • Mas Nakagawa Memorial Scholarship: Sam Nishimura, continuing undergraduate at DePaul University
  • Tomiyama Scholarship: James Ozaki, continuing graduate student at Cornell University

Although we were unable to celebrate our scholarship awardees in person this year, I hope you will visit our website to learn more about our accomplished scholarship winners, and take the opportunity to reach out to congratulate them, connect with them, and welcome them to our community.  

Our website also has descriptions of the scholarships we have awarded, which are either donated directly by, or continue to be funded in memory of, past community leaders, many of whom are survivors of the WWII Japanese American incarceration.  Our scholarship program embodies their enduring legacy, strength, and resilience, and I invite you to reflect upon the connections between the Nikkei incarceration experience and the social justice issues that our young scholarship winners are engaged with today.

JACL Chicago is immensely grateful to our scholarship donors, who have allowed us to provide financial support and stability to our awardees in this time of uncertainty.  I would also like to thank the members of the JACL Chicago Scholarship Committee (Gary Yamagiwa, Joyce Morimoto, Judy Tanaka, Pat Harada, and Rosemary Lee), whose responsiveness, flexibility, and creativity allowed us to reimagine this year’s Scholarship Program while still meeting our goals. 

The past few months have underlined the importance of community and connection for our individual and collective health and well-being.  I am grateful that this year’s Scholarship Program served as an opportunity to foster relationships and strengthen our circles of support.  Thank you to everyone who has continued to support our program and our awardees — and I hope to see everyone at the 2021 Scholarship Luncheon, which is planned for Sunday, May 16!