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JACL: Project Community 2009

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(Group Photo of Participants on Noguchi Stones at JACCC Plaza)

Last tuesday I attending one of the sessions for this years Project Community Program. Project Community is a summer youth program created by the Pacific Southwest Chapter of the Japanese American Citizens League.   Project Community was started in 2008 by the JACL PSW district and is intended for high school students, to empower youth, increase their voice in the community, as well help them understand the importance of community and community preservation.  The program is statewide in Northern California and Southern California in Japantown SF and Little Tokyo LA.  The program emerged from an understanding that preserving Japanese American culture, community and remaining Japan towns requires youth interest and involvement. 

Participants are immersed in an 8 Week summer session that meets every tuesday evening in Little Tokyo.  Each session is different each having its own theme and focus.  Some of the themes include Identity and Community, the power of place, Little Tokyo in danger, and community organizations.  Sessions also have visits to Little Tokyo Community organizations, guest speakers, and interactive workshops.  They also are will be creating a collaborative art piece that will be displayed at the end of the program during their Culmination event.

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(JACL PSW Regional Director Craig Ishii leading a discussion)

Over this last session the participants started out playing a quick ice breaker, then a small workshop was given on community organizations, what they do, how they function and different types.  We then went on a tour of the of the grounds of the JACCC or Japanese American Cultural and Community Center, where we saw the different facilities such as the Noguchi Plaza, James Irvine Japanese Garden and dropped in during JACCC board meeting. 

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(Participants at JACCC Board Meeting)

They would then continue on to The Japanese American National Musuem to hear the story of the creation and importance having such a museum inside Little Tokyo.  The the would go to the Little Tokyo Service Center where Executive Director Bill Watanabe would give them some background information on LTSC and what they do.  Afterwards the participants returned to the JACCC, and concluded by starting the creative process for the culmination art piece.  
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(Participants in the Noguchi Plaza)
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(Participants at LTSC)

My own thoughts on the session and the program itself is that this is truly a great program. As part of the Nikkei Community Internship which is another youth leadership program, put on by the California Japanese American Community Leadership Counsel or CJACLC as well as being involved in the community with the Nikkei Student Union and Intercollegiate Nikkei Counsel, I think this program is great.  My own involvement began in college, but if a program like Project Community was around when I was in high school, I cant imagine how starting earlier may have changed my life.  For me getting involved and learning more about the community have been a very positive addition to my life.  As someone passionate about the future of the Japanese American community I found it very refreshing and inspiring to see a group of high schoolers interested in getting involved so early.  When they enter college I believe that the skills and experiences they gained from this program will really empower them to get involved and make a difference to the community especially our generation.  

Project Community has BLOG, Check it out and stay updated

For more information about Project Community Click HERE

For more information about JACL Pacific Southwest District click HERE

For more information about JACL click HERE.

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