6 MONTEREY COUNTY WEEKLY JUNE 20-26, 2024 www.montereycountynow.com 831 Salinas high schools have a robust Japanese program, which some may not expect in a majority-Latino community. History, however, will tell otherwise: There is a prominent Japanese American community in the area; many are descendants from the Japanese immigrants who came to the area in the 19th century and worked in sugar beet fields, later placed with lettuce, strawberries and other crops. But that doesn’t explain the reason Japanese is present in Salinas’ classrooms. Tei Yajima Dacus, a Japanese immigrant, started the program in Monterey County over 30 years ago at Alisal High School when there were hardly any such programs across the state. Yajima Dacus is Ann Jordan’s mother. Ann and her husband, Peter Jordan, both retired foreign-language teachers in Japanese and French, respectively, formed the Wasshoi Foundation in 2018 after retirement. The foundation provides opportunities for low-income students to travel abroad and immerse themselves in a new culture and speak the language they’ve learned in the classroom. The Jordans organized trips abroad when they were teachers. “I always felt bad about having kids who were really talented students, but didn’t have the resources to join them on the trip,” Peter Jordan says. “Wasshoi” means to carry peace or harmony, as well as cooperation and community effort. It is a chant people use at festivals while they carry a portable mikoshi shrine through the streets. Ann Jordan says they created the organization to support the students’ objectives and dreams and bring others to collaborate in their own wasshoi. “Together, we’re carrying them on our shoulders,” she says. The program is open to high school students from Salinas Union High School District and Los Gatos-Saratoga Union High School District, where the Jordans taught. The scholarships focus on students who have studied at least two years of Japanese and are currently enrolled in an advanced course on the language, are involved in their community and face financial hardship. The small foundation normally sends one student per year, but this time, thanks to a donation and accumulated money during the pandemic, two students will travel to Japan for two weeks over the summer. Wasshoi partnered with New Perspectives Japan, a nonprofit organization based in Washington that organizes Japanese immersion programs. This year’s recipients are two recent graduates from SUHSD: Cynthia Gonzalez-Leon from Everett Alvarez High School and Joanna Moreno-Vides from Rancho San Juan High School. Gonzalez-Leon’s interest in Japanese started when she grabbed a Japanese manga book at the library. This trip will be special for Gonzalez-Leon because it will be the first time she travels abroad. “I’m really thankful for the Wasshoi program for just opening a door to a new opportunity that I’ve been wanting to do ever since I was little,” she says. Gonzalez-Leon is eager to talk to locals and learn about their culture. One stop she won’t miss is Animate, Japan’s most popular anime retailer. Moreno-Vides’ introduction to Japanese started because her older brother Wilbert Rivas-Vides was taking Japanese classes. “He’d always show me his assignments and I’d be like, ‘Oh, my God, like, that’s so cool. You’re learning a third language,’” she says. This is the first time Moreno-Vides will travel out of the country without family members. She wants to visit Nara, which was once the capital of Japan. Moreno-Vides says she’s been juggling her upcoming college orientation and preparing for the trip—seeking recommendations on TikTok for what necessities she will need in Japan, and asking questions to fellow students who have been in Japan before. Both Salinas students will spend two weeks in Japan, traveling with other students from Washington. To learn more about the Wasshoi Foundation, visit wasshoi.foundation. Cultural Immersion Salinas students are ready to explore Japan, thanks to the support of a local nonprofit. By Celia Jiménez Cynthia Gonzalez-Leon (from right) and Joanna Moreno-Vides are the recipients of the Wasshoi Foundation’s travel grants and will head to Japan this summer. Peter and Ann Jordan (at left) founded the organization to help students travel abroad. “Together, we’re carrying them on our shoulders.” TALES FROM THE AREA CODE DANIEL DREIFUSS “At Santa Cruz County Bank I know exactly who to call when I need answers. The Bank makes decisions at a local level – the same way I do. The Treasury Management team walked us through the efficiencies of online and mobile banking and the security of having positive pay protection – all of which keep our bookkeeper very happy!”