In May of this year, the OIST Foundation established the Matsuro and Tsuruko Nakasone Fund with a donation from Mr. Robert Nakasone. The fund will be used to support science education activities, primarily for elementary and middle school students, to encourage young people to pursue careers in science. Mr. Robert Nakasone, the founder of the World Uchinanchu Business Network (WUB), along with Mr. Edward Kuba, an attorney and the former president of the Hawaii Prefectural Association, an advisor to the University of the Ryukyus, spoke about the background of the fund and the future of Okinawan children.
Background and thoughts on the establishment of the Fund
In establishing the Matsuro & Tsuruko Nakasone Fund, Mr. Robert Nakasone says he has a special thought in his heart for the education and support he received from his parents.
"My parents immigrated to Hawaii in the 1920s. In the beginning, they were very poor and had to work various jobs at the same time, such as farming, tending livestock, and working in a restaurant kitchen. They later chose to move to Honolulu to open a restaurant, due to the excellent educational environment there for children in those days. As a result of my parents’ efforts to change the educational environment for myself and my siblings, all six of us have graduated from college, and five of us, including myself, have gone on to have wonderful STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) related careers. Now I want to return the benefits from my parents back to the society and help the children of Okinawa have a better future."
Mr. Nakasone would also like to see more STEM experiences for Okinawan children from an early age. He points out the importance of STEM education, especially in elementary and junior high school, as well as for girls. "Japanese society still has a lot of work to do in terms of promoting the advancement of women. Getting involved in STEM at a young age can lead to a much wider range of opportunities. I hope this fund will be used to provide children with hands-on science experiences that will lead to new opportunities for them."
Using the achievements of Okinawan immigrants in Hawaii as to inspire Okinawa's future
Okinawa has long faced many challenges, including high poverty rates and disparities in education. Mr. Edward Kubawho is active in the field of education, says that Okinawan natives living in Hawaii can provide inspiration to improve the future of Okinawan children.
According to “Demographic, Social, Economic, and Housing Characteristics for Selected Race Groups in Hawaii” published in 2018 by the State of Hawaii, Okinawan descendants showed the highest household income, homeownership rate, education level (percentage of people who graduated with a high school education or higher), and the lowest in terms of unemployment and poverty rates among all race groups in Hawaii. I believe this is a result of the first generation of Okinawans who moved to Hawaii seeing the importance of education for their children and grandchildren, followed by the second and third generations gradually achieving success. I believe that if we can raise awareness of the importance of education in our society, we can do the same for Okinawa as what Uchinanchu (Okinawan native) in Hawaii have done for us."
Mr. Robert Nakasone concluded by saying, "I want OIST to play a part in Okinawa’s future. I want OIST and the society of Okinawa to deepen their relationship and work together for a better future."
This article is an excerpt from an interview with the Ryukyu Shimpo in June of this year.
Please see below for information on OIST's science outreach and community relations activities.