Where Are They Now – Jonathan Yamasaki
Born and raised in a South Phoenix neighborhood riddled with crime and gang violence, Jonathan Yamasaki didn’t have the easiest of childhoods. He was picked on at school, got into fights, and halfway through his adolescence was forced to move to a completely new town. Despite these situations, he was able to overcome these hardships and choose a brighter path.
Jonathan became very involved in high school; wrestling, football, choir, and drama were some of the activities he was involved in. He hoped that being a part of these groups would help him be able to turn his negative energy at home into something positive; and he was able to do just that.
By his senior year of high school, Jonathan had started applying for college scholarships and was fortunate enough to get a full academic scholarships to all three Arizona state universities. Jonathan ended up choosing NAU and began a double major in choral education and business administration.
Jonathan became involved with the Hispanic Scholarship Fund and the Be A Leader Foundation during his collegiate career; these two non-profit organizations, helped mentor him throughout his time at NAU. Because of his participation in these organizations, Jonathan realized that focusing his energies on the business administration major would better prepare him to find a stable job because of the expansiveness of the major. Jonathan has changed his education path to focus only on his business administration degree.
This past summer, Jonathan earned an internship in Washington D.C. with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute. As an intern, Jonathan was able to work directly under the Democratic or Republican representative of his choosing. He selected Representative Ruben Gallego, who represents Arizona’s 7th Congressional District. While in Washington, Jonathan was able to attend several briefings, seminars, and conferences; he was also able to see Bernie Sanders speak, shake the hand of Vice President Joe Biden, visit with the Castro brothers, Nancy Pelosi, and other leaders. Along with his work in the Capitol, Jonathan also performed community service in the DC area. Jonathan’s internship allowed him to discover his strengths and weaknesses, and also enabled him to create a great list of connections.
Jonathan is also now in the process of applying to become a part of a new project called ‘Reimagining the First Year of College’, organized by the American Association of State Colleges and Universities. If accepted, Jonathan will be working with a select team from NAU to essentially revamp the entire blueprint of the first year of college, focusing closely on low-income first-generation people of color.
Upon graduation, Jonathan hopes to start his own non-profit organization helping underprivileged youth get into, as well as succeed in, college. His primary focus will be on the graduation rates of the same student population he may work with in the Reimagining project.
Jonathan’s dream is for everyone to be able to create value out of their college education; he doesn’t want to see anyone fall through the cracks anymore.