March 28, 2016
By Troy Wilde
Flagstaff, AZ – Jonathan Yamasaki was headed toward a life involving gangs on Phoenix’s south side – that was before he made choices in high school that now have him on a path that could lead to the White House.
Jonathan says his goal is to be the U.S. Secretary of Education, “Honestly I would like to be a cabinet member of the president for education for Latinos, or maybe even the whole thing. I want to help nationwide – help make college accessible, affordable, and achievable for all students.”
In an effort to achieve his goal, Jonathan is working with the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU) at the local and national levels to help first generation students of color attend and graduate from college.
Jonathan, now 21, graduated from Alhambra High School in Phoenix and is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration at Northern Arizona University (NAU). He expects to graduate in 2017.
Jonathan explains that he wants to make it easier for hard-working students from schools in low income areas to apply for scholarships, “In high school I worked so hard just to try to get scholarships. If you’re an average student and not in a great school and you’re trying to get a recommender (for a scholarship), it’s kind of hard because you don’t even know who to ask or how to ask. I don’t want anyone to have to go through the same thing that I did – feeling alone and like no one is there to help.”
Jonathan says he was involved with gangs and most definitely headed down the wrong path when a good thing happened, “This was actually the help of one counselor – at the end of my freshmen year she forced me to sign up for a summer program at ASU with the Hispanic College Fund. This program basically helps students become college-bound, and that’s what really influenced me and showed me, ‘you know what? College is a way out.”
In basic terms, Jonathan says college added hope to a life where there once was no hope.
Jonathan’s hard work in high school paid off after he earned a scholarship from College Success Arizona which provides up to six-thousand dollars per year for educational expenses. It also comes with mentorship provided by success advisers. Jonathan says Robert Davis, his current success adviser, and past advisers have provided valuable guidance:
“Oh yeah definitely. They’ve all influenced me to continue my education and they’ve all really helped me to kind of plan out and put my ducks in a row in what I want to do, and also to calm me down if I’m stressing about a class that I’m not so sure about.”
For public school student considering college, Jonathan says get ready for something harder than high school, “My best advice is, ‘do not think that college is going to be as easy as high school, you actually have to study.’ You really have to study for your classes and take the time out of your day because you’re going to realize once the test comes, you’re not prepared to take it. So, it’s a big shift.”