Nick Kato

Question:

The CUSD School Board plans to assemble a committee of school system stakeholders to put together and execute an Equity Action Plan. If you had the power to choose one member of this committee, who would it be - and why?

Answer:

As the father of two minority children who will grow up and attend school in Coronado, the topics of diversity and inclusion in CUSD are deeply important to my family and me. Growing up as a “husky,” mixed-race child (three-quarters Japanese, one-quarter Caucasian) with a speech impediment, I have faced all different types of discrimination both in school (in California and Japan) and in the workplace. Despite these hurdles, I have been able to work to achieve my goals, largely due to the wisdom imparted to me by my late grandmother, Michiko Summers. That is why, if I could choose anybody to be on the Equity Action Plan committee, I would choose her.

My late grandmother was a Japanese woman who married an American soldier and moved to Tennessee shortly after the Second World War. As one could only imagine, she had more than her share of experience with discrimination, both in Japan and in the U.S. And having guided her four mixed-race children through the challenges of being different, by the time I came to her, she was a bit of an expert. Growing up, it was not uncommon for my grandmother to pick me up from school. During the car ride back to her house, I would often cry to her about the hate I experienced that day, to which she would give one of three responses:

Don’t listen to those kids, they’re just afraid of what they don’t understand. It’s not their fault.

Stay strong and keep showing them who you are. One day, they will open their eyes and like you for you; but you can’t change someone in one day. Change takes time.”

If you want to be treated fairly, you’re going to have to work twice as hard and be twice as good as others.

Although her advice was sometimes hard to hear as a child, I found comfort in knowing that she understood and that she had used these “principles” to overcome prejudices herself. It would be amazing to have someone like my grandmother on the Equity Action Plan Committee, as she was thoughtful, patient, empathetic, and smart. Moreover, she understood the need to balance persistence with compromise to make real change. While I miss her dearly, I live by her words every day and attribute much of my success in earning a “seat at the table” to her belief in me, her faith in humanity, and her wisdom to know that with the right approach, change was possible.

While diversity and inclusion have come a long way and continue to improve since World War II, I am excited to see CUSD’s commitment to making things even better. While I, of course, want my children to learn how to work hard to achieve their goals I hope they will be treated and judged on level playing fields in all aspects of their lives. However, as a father, I want to do more than “hope” for a favorable outcome for my children—which is why I am so excited about the prospects of being a part of CUSD’s School Board as they further their commitment to diversity and inclusion issues in our schools.

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