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Political Science Major Kyle Sasai Goes Beyond Our Gates

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Teen Takes Responsibility Upon His Shoulders

Whenever we can we like to highlight the outstanding activities of Pacific’s political science majors.  Today we take a look at Kyle Sasai, a freshman political science major and a participant in Pacific’s landmark Pacific Legal Scholars program.Kyle Sasai at Cleveland Elementary

College students handed out more than supply-filled backpacks to students at Cleveland School on Thursday.

They also handed out hope.

Kyle Sasai, a 17-year-old freshman student in the University of the Pacific‘s Legal Scholars Program, saw a need and decided to fill it.

Spurred by the challenge from Pacific President Pamela Eibeck to go “beyond their gates,” Sasai looked at the school district around him, Stockton Unified, often disparaged for its high dropout rate, and started raising money to give every eighth-grader at Cleveland a backpack filled with school supplies and an inspiration to continue their education.

On Thursday, he and several other Pacific students met with the Cleveland students. The gifts made an impression. “The backpack was so cool,” Cleveland student Mari Moreno said.

But more so was the knowledge that high school and college offer more than just homework.

“I learned about college, … what the experience will be,” Mari said.

And that was the point.

Sure, the Cleveland students wondered about higher education courses and opportunities, but what was really on their minds?

“The kids were so open to it,” Sasai said. “They were talking about proms and parties and such. … One asked how to ask a girl out to the prom.”

The social part of school can be such a motivating factor, something the collegians know all too well.

To call Sasai a motivated student might be an understatement, according to his adviser, Dylan Zorea.

“He pretty much organized the entire thing, made the connections,” Zorea said. “We were just the facilitators. He is definitely a very ambitious (student), and a kid who has a lot of integrity. He’s someone who wants to make a difference in this world.”

Sasai was motivated, in part, after a trip to the Philippines, where he saw poverty and how something as simple as a pencil can motivate a student.

It took him about a year to raise the funds to provide the supply-filled backpacks, but the connections might last longer. A student whose life he touched in the Philippines emailed him months after his contact – with a question about math.

Making connections is as important as the backpacks. Mari spoke of Pacific student Amy Burns as her new best friend because they both have an interest in theater.

“It’s cool to let (the students) know about all these fun things for them in school, … prom and football games,” Burns said. “Every decision you make can impact your life.”

Sasai is one of the people who can drive that point home, Zorea said.

“(Sasai) is just a few years older than these kids in middle school,” Zorea said. “When he’s telling them they can live your dreams, it means more coming from a man like him than from a teacher.”

And next year? The goal is to reach more students.

“He’s a perfectionist,” Zorea said. “The conversation we had after it was, ‘Next year, how can we reach more schools?’ He definitely wants to do something on a larger scale and reach more kids. … This is kind of typical of the kids who are involved in our program. People have this idea that kids are drawn to law school because they can … make a lot of money. But our kids are drawn to make a difference.”

Sasai, who hails from Richmond, shares this broader vision.

“Once I got to Stockton, I felt I was here for a reason,” Sasai said. “And if that was to impact this community, then I’m good with that.”

Record Web Content Producer Katie Combs contributed to this report.

You can see Kyle talk about the project in a video here.

We couldn’t be more proud.

 

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