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Shane Deguchi is the son of NVC Foundation President Jay Deguchi and great-grandson of Yoshito Fujii. Deguchi is a graduating senior from Mercer Island High School. During his high school career, Deguchi spent much of his extracurricular time participating in high school sports such as golf, basketball, and baseball, and is a two-time Golden Glove awardee. When he is not practicing or playing sports, he volunteers as a Little League baseball and Little Dribblers basketball coach. Deguchi will attend San Diego State University this fall with an interest in majoring in construction management. 

Question: How do you represent and share what it means to be a Japanese American?  How will you seek opportunities to become more culturally engaged and have meaningful interactions with people and cultures different from your own?  Share your vision of how you will use your education and career to build on your familial legacy and that of Col. Jimmie Kanaya.

What does it mean to be Japanese American? To me it means many things. It means checking in on my grandma and showing respect to family members. It means remaining collected when faced with challenges and showing gratitude for the small things that life presents. It means persevering when things get tough and taking the high road even when I don’t want to and being proud of my culture and the skin I live in. 

It is a reminder of the resilience of past Japanese American generations. Of the ability to rebuild a community after losing everything. It is the spirit of those who faced racism and hate yet chose forgiveness.  It is my ancestor’s strength, perseverance, and dedication for future generations to come.

Being Japanese American is my childhood. It is a memory of putting on a happi coat made by my great aunt May for Obon Odori.  It is learning dance steps to Tanko Bushi with my cousins. It is the booming sound of taiko drums and playing SASC basketball on Monday nights with my friends. It is my mouth watering on a trip to Uwajimaya to get a box of strawberry Pocky. It is pounding sweet rice to make mochi for New Year’s day Ozoni. It is folding 1000 paper cranes after reading about Sadako. Being Japanese American is my childhood.

It is also my future. I look forward to continuing to learn and experience new ways in which it means to be Japanese American. I also hope to share these traditions and moments with my future family. I will seek opportunities to become more culturally engaged by trying to always try new experiences. Going forward, I am dedicated to never feeling stagnant, and instead staying curious and open minded to other cultures and their history. 

I believe that some of my best strengths are my adaptability and yearning to be a part of communities. Throughout my high school career, I have joined various sport teams and clubs. This has allowed me to make new friends and gain new skills. By seeking new communities, I have expanded my close circle and have been introduced to new cultures and perspectives that I would have never seen from my bedroom. As I continue my academic journey, I am excited to build more meaningful relationships and continue to explore cultures different from my own. I hope to do this in college by meeting as many people as I can. I am excited to play on an intramural basketball and baseball team, join random clubs, and go to the various social, academic, and sporting events that college offers. I plan to study abroad and travel to as many countries as I am able. Visiting new places and experiencing different customs will help me gain a more profound appreciation for diversity. I hope to build a community of new stories, personalities, and cultures — a unique gift that the next four years of college offers. 

Additionally, I hope to share in Colonel Jimmie Kanaya’s bravery and loyalty as he was dedicated to his combat team. Colonel Kanaya’s resilience during World War II exemplifies the spirit of grit and passion. While I do not know what my future career will hold, I will pull inspiration from Colonel Kanaya and try to be as dedicated to my teams and classmates, as thoughtful a leader and loyal friend. I hope to follow in not only his footsteps, but those of my family members, and help to support, cultivate and enrich the Japanese community in Seattle.  

It is a delicate act to embrace one’s own heritage while seeking new cultural opportunities. But I look forward to using my education to explore this balance and share with others what being Japanese American is to me. I specifically hope to continue to honor those who fought so hard during World War II and faced hardship from the racial injustices to make my life so much better. 

To me, being Japanese American is an ever-evolving experience. It means something different to me, than it does to my father, than it does to my cousins, than it does to my grandma. However, it is the one thing that is also connecting us all. It is a permanent part of our lives, and one I am eternally grateful for. I am excited to leap into my next journey and hope to exhibit a fraction of the loyalty and resilience of my ancestors and of those like Colonel Kanaya.