- The Washington Times - Monday, August 22, 2005

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Toshiko Aiboshi remembers swelling with pride at her grandson’s high school graduation — and now she hopes her grandson feels the same pride for her.

Mrs. Aiboshi and nearly 60 other Japanese Americans sent to internment camps during World War II belatedly received their high school diplomas Sunday amid tears and shouts of joy from their children and grandchildren.

Mrs. Aiboshi’s grandson, 23-year-old Nicolas Echevestre, accepted a diploma for his late grandfather.

“We both went to Nic’s graduation. That was a very special moment,” Mrs. Aiboshi said. “I hope Nic will feel this is a special moment.”

The honorees, wearing colorful leis and sashes, walked down the aisle of Los Angeles Trade Technical College’s auditorium. Some needed canes, a few were in wheelchairs, and more than a few were crying.

“For all you young people who are going to call out to Grandma for representing your family today, this is the unfolding of history right before your eyes,” said Warren Furutani of the Los Angeles Community College District.

The graduates represented the largest group of former internees to receive their diplomas at one time. Children went to school in the internment camps and received diplomas there, but not from the schools they were taken from.

Takashi Hoshizaki, who should have graduated from Belmont High School in Los Angeles in 1944, was one of two student speakers. He described how his life took a detour when he was sent to the camps in Wyoming.

“Some may consider a high school diploma just a piece of paper, but it’s a symbol to me,” Mr. Hoshizaki told the audience of several hundred.

The diploma project is the result of legislation sponsored by Democratic Assemblywoman Sally Lieber allowing school districts to give diplomas to students interned by the government during World War II. About 120,000 Japanese-Americans, most from California, were forced into the camps.

Since Miss Lieber’s legislation passed last year, more than 400 people have received diplomas, some posthumously.

In 1988, the U.S. government officially apologized for the internments and offered $20,000 to eligible survivors, but the diplomas have helped survivors make their experiences relevant to the younger generations.

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