Submission: E Komo Mai, Welcome to College

South Puget Sound Community College values diversity in all its forms, and is committed to making sure all students feel welcome and accepted and that their experiences matter. The Diversity and Equity Center is located in the Student Union Building, right across from the cafeteria. We are open to all students, and we look forward to seeing you.

The DEC is staffed by an energetic and diverse group of student mentors known as the DEC Team. Here at the DEC, we understand that students from historically underrepresented or marginalized communities may sometimes feel alone on campus, and that this can make college more challenging. Many of you are the first people in your families to attend college—a courageous undertaking in its own right!

If you want to share your culture, background and identity with others, and learn about theirs in return, come by. If you want to join or start a club based on your identity group, we want to help you! If you’re ever feeling lost, alone, misunderstood, or even discriminated against you can be assured that someone else in the DEC has shared those feelings.
We can listen, strategize, help you find resources, help you advocate for yourself, or assist you in organizing for issues that are important to you. Please drop in anytime for tea, conversation, and to experience our diverse, vibrant learning community. And of course please contact me, Eileen Yoshina the director of diversity and equity, anytime for more information, questions, or concerns.

A little bit about me:
I am a fourth-generation Japanese American/Irish American. I was born and raised in Hawaii by a dad who was the descendant of sugar-cane plantation workers and an Irish-Catholic mom from Philadelphia.

I tell my students this all the time: when I am around people of different backgrounds and cultures, I feel that I am home. Hawai’i is a multicultural place—not without its share of troubles, but still one in which a child who grows up there learns that diversity is “normal,” not homogeneity.

I earned a bachelor’s degree in English from Northwestern University outside Chicago and a master’s degree in education from Harvard University. What I gained from both those experiences was a new appreciation for how much better my education was from learning alongside people from all over the world; from all socio-economic backgrounds; from many ages, religions, and cultural traditions, and from many political viewpoints. As one of my favorite educators said, “Diversity is our prosperity.”

What I also came to learn is how seriously opportunities to access higher education can be limited for people from specific groups. I started working as an intern at Chicago public schools, in the Hawai’i juvenile court system, and later in Boston public and private schools. What I saw astounded me.

Children grew up in conditions that no child should ever have to survive—but survive they did, in no small part due to the determination, commitment and love of their families. I became passionate about working with schools to become places that welcomed people from all communities. I met many amazing teachers along the way and with their guidance and mentorship became a teacher myself, first in Boston, then in the North Thurston and Olympia School Districts, and then finally as an adjunct faculty member here at SPSCC.

When I started my current position as director of diversity and equity, I realized that I was lucky. I was one of those people who was getting paid to do something I would want to be doing anyway. I have felt lucky ever since.

I am often inspired on the first day of class when I see you, the many valiant students of SPSCC embarking on your career in higher education. Sometimes your journey makes me think about my Uncle Sadao Nishida, who was a proud member of the 100th Battalion, a regiment of Japanese American soldiers from Hawaii. Because of the racial prejudice of the World War II era, the 100th Battalion had to serve their country as members of a segregated unit.

Despite the fact that members of their ethnic group were interned in camps in Hawaii and on the Mainland, the unit’s motto was to “Go for broke,” or to give their mission everything they had. They, along with the more well-known 442nd Division, became known for their courage on the battlefield and the many sacrifices they made for the good of their families, community and country.
While we certainly hope your college experience doesn’t resemble a battlefield, we salute the same spirit of determination that we see whenever you enter our classrooms. We want you to know that we are here to support you.

The members of the 100th Battalion ultimately succeeded because of their own courage and resilience, the strength they drew from their history and culture, the love of their families and friends, and eventually, the respect of their community. We hope you will draw on those same resources to achieve your goals, both here on campus and beyond.
Thank you for joining us here at SPSCC. Good luck as you begin your academic career, and please remember that the DEC is here for you. Go for broke!

Submitted by Eileen Yoshina

Contact Eileen Yoshina Director of Diversity and Equity
(360) 596-5383