Bakersfield & Taft College

Japanese-American students get overdue diplomas from BC

By Jose Gaspar, Eyewitness News
May 17, 2010

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. -- Mary Higashi Kinoshita formerly of Poston block 6-4-D (photo on the right)  was just 19 years old when her education at Bakersfield College was suddenly interrupted.
      It was war time, and the United States government issued Executive Order 9066, which meant scores of Japanese-Americans were rounded up and sent to internment camps.
     Mary's family landed in the hot dusty place of Poston, Arizona.  "I couldn't believe it," said Kinoshita. "I felt that an injustice was being done and I wondered how could America do this to me?"
      Born and raised in Bakersfield, Kinoshita attended Roosevelt Elementary, Emerson Jr. High and Bakersfield High School. None of that mattered, as Japanese-Americans were routinely sent away.
      But 68 years later, Kinoshita and three others representing their deceased family members finally got what they had been denied more than six decades ago. Bakersfield College conferred honorary diplomas and certificates of achievement to them under a new law known as the California Nisei Diploma Project.
      The project awards the diplomas on Japanese-Americans living or deceased who were denied their education as a result of being sent to an internment camp.
      Kinoshito and three others received the diplomas at the 96th Bakersfield College Commencement Ceremony on Friday.
      George Tatsuno of Bakersfield was there representing his father George Tatsuno Sr. (Poston block 14) who died in 2001.
      "To hear them talk about it is hard, but it's fitting that he would get honored today," said Tatsuno as he fought back tears.
      So far Bakersfield College staffers have found 33 former students who were denied their diplomas.

Source: http://www.bakersfieldnow.com/news/93837749.html

Colleges honoring Japanese-American students with honorary degrees
By Jorge Barrientos, Californian staff writer
Thursday, Feb 04 2010 

     During World War II, hundreds of Japanese-American students throughout California were denied a college education when the federal government forced them from campuses to internment camps. 
     As a way to make right of wrongs, community colleges locally and throughout the state will begin awarding honorary degrees to students and their families affected by the injustice nearly 70 years ago, officials said.
    "When you're in college, you have all these dreams you want to accomplish. Their dreams were interrupted," said Aya Ino, coordinator for the California Nisei College Diploma Project. "The honorary degree is one way to make things better." 
    Bakersfield College and Taft College in the coming weeks will start searching for possible candidates, who if still alive would be in their 80s now. According to the Nisei project, 14 students were enrolled at what was in 1941 Bakersfield Junior College. Two were enrolled at Taft Junior College. Nisei are second-generation Japanese Americans.
     Officials are also seeking those who were interned and not able to enroll in college. The project asks family members of those who are now deceased to come forward to accept the degree on their relative's behalf.
     "We would like to find as many people as possible so we can honor them with a degree," said Paige Marlatt Dorr, spokeswoman for the California Community Colleges Chancellor's Office.
     Assembly Bill 37 was signed into law in October. It requires state community colleges, California state universities and University of California campuses to honor those forced to leave post-secondary studies because of federal Executive Order 9066. Colleges were notified of the program last month.
     That order, signed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in early 1942 after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, forced roughly 120,000 Japanese Americans into camps and incarcerated during the war.
     More than 1,200 affected students were attending 44 junior or community colleges before the order was given, according to the Nisei project.
     "This is really meaningful to the Nisei and their family members," said Cheryl Fong, project coordinator with the California Community Colleges Chancellor's Office. "It's kind of like unfinished business, in a sense, that will bring some closure to an injustice."
     BC spokeswoman Amber Chiang said the college is in the beginning stages of the project, and officials will begin searching through college archives.
     "This is a really good thing," Chiang said. "This is recognizing what some of our students were put through in our nation's history."
     Around the state, several colleges and universities in recent years have held ceremonies to award degrees to Japanese Americans affected by interment including Sierra College, College of San Mateo and UC Berkeley.
If you know of someone who might qualify for an honorary degree, call Sue Vaughn of Bakersfield College at 395-4049. 

Source: http://www.bakersfield.com/news/local/x854214187/Colleges-honoring-Japanese-American-students-with-honorary-degrees

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