Active sophomore recognized for community service

Sophie Epstein

When Yoshio Boris took Japanese students shopping at Westfield, he was unsure of how to respond to their surprise that Americans had tattoos.

Sophomore Yoshio Boris (middle) with students from the Tomodachi Program.

This shopping trip was a part of Boris’ work over the summer with the Tomodachi Leadership Program, an initiative that brought Japanese students who were affected by the 2010 earthquake to America. Boris, a sophomore, was given a Jefferson Award two weeks ago for his extensive community service.

The Redwood Jefferson Awards club presents these awards in recognition of community service involvement, but Boris said he was not aware of the club until this year.

“I had no idea of it when I was doing the community service,” he said. “My friend emailed [the program] to me. We didn’t do it for the community service, we just thought it would be really fun.”

The Tomodachi Program focused on leadership development and exposure to American culture, which is why Boris spent three weeks with the Japanese students.

“They came here and stayed at Berkeley,” Boris said. “They were all farm kids who had never been to a big city. We did different events, like we had a barbeque, and we took them shopping at Westfield. It was basically teaching them about American culture. They also had a bunch of classes on American business, so it was giving them future opportunities.”

Boris is half Japanese and has visited Japan multiple times, and he said he also enjoyed seeing things from the Japanese students’ perspectives.

“There were a lot of culture shocks for them that seemed like normal things to us,” he said. “Spending time with them was interesting. It was really cool to be able to bond with these kids and see what they thought of our culture.”

The majority of students in the Tomodachi program came from areas affected by the Japanese earthquake and tsunami that hit the country two years ago. Boris said that he still keeps in touch with many of the students that he met through the program, and although he did not talk about the earthquake with them, he saw photos of the damage on Facebook.

“It was amazing to see how positive they still were, even though it had happened to them so recently,” Boris said. “They bounded back so positively from such an atrocity.”

Boris’ Jefferson Award recognized his community service involvement that extended beyond just one program. He also volunteered at the Redwood Retirement Center, works with the Boy Scouts of America’s Maximum Youth Leadership Training program every year, and is planning on doing National Youth Leadership Training this year.

“Knowing that your contribution means something to someone is always satisfying,” Boris said. “Especially at the Japanese program, how grateful the kids were, it’s really satisfying.”