Kayoko Fong pours it on in all she does – on the basketball court, in the classroom and in the community. Consider this: The senior at Westridge School for Girls gets up before dawn to review game tape. She runs extra lines after practice – on her own. She badgers teachers for extra credit. And she reads voraciously – retaining nearly all of it with her formidable memory – to feed her enormous appetite for learning. “She’s like a champion race horse champing at the bit,” writes Elizabeth Cole, a Westridge history teacher. “She is one of the most thoroughly self-motivated, entrepreneurial, and intelligent students I’ve taught in my thirty-four years here.” The daughter of Jennifer and Kevin Fong, Kayoko has played on three Bruins teams over 11 years. At Westridge, she is a four-year varsity player and three-year captain honored with several awards, including Prep League Second Team this year and her team’s Most Valuable Passer, Defensive Player of the Year, Rookie of the Year and the school’s top athletic senior honor, the Westridge Tiger Award of Excellence. She also played two years of varsity lacrosse, serving as captain her junior year. “Kayoko, without question, is the most dedicated athlete I’ve ever coached,” writes Melanie A. Horn, Westridge’s director of athletics and head basketball coach. “Leading by example has never had a better leader. Her intensity is unparalled.” Kayoko’s academic drive is also intense, leading to a 3.85 unweighted GPA and achievement as an AP Scholar with Distinction and the Westridge chapter of the Cum Laude Society. She has competed in her school’s Science Olympiad Club events and published works in Westridge’s Outlook literary magazine. Kayoko has served as Westridge representative to the Prep League Athletic Council and sophomore community service representative organizing food drives and hygiene kits for Hurricane Sandy victims. She has also been active in the Chinese Affinity club, Green Guerillas Environmental Club and volunteered as a greeter and tour guide during school Open House events. Kayoko plans to attend a four-year university and major in public health and classical civilizations, while completing a pre-medicine track to become a cardiothoracic anesthesiologist. She dreams big, aiming to eventually run the Centers for Disease Control or the World Health Organization – and her teachers are confident she will succeed. “Whatever she sets her mind to do, she seems to accomplish,” Cole writes. “She makes things happen because of what she is able to take on for herself and because she is such a capable learner and takes responsibility for creating her own life path.” In the community, Kayoko has shared her time and talents with the Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Gardens for the past three years as a volunteer to maintain the Children’s Garden and greenhouse plants; assist visitors and help out at public programs, such as family candy-making class. She has worked with Student Philanthropists Advancing Real Change to evaluate Pasadena area non-profit charitable organizations and select grant awardees. She also volunteered at the Pasadena Ronald McDonald House last summer and has participated in Yonsei Basketball. To improve the Bruins, Kayoko suggests connecting younger and older players through mentorships and website postings for teams seeking assistant coaches. She herself has volunteered as an assistant coach for the Bruins Cheetahs and Hula Hoopz, along with helping out at Pee Wee clinics. “I believe coaching younger teams is a very worthwhile experience,” she writes. “Younger players can look up to older players as role models and older players can give back and contribute to the Bruins Program they grew up in.”
She’s the one who skids across the court for a loose ball. Or obsesses over school yearbook layouts to make them perfect. Or perseveres through AP science classes to challenge herself despite stronger talents in the humanities. Elise Takahama may be petite, but the South Pasadena High senior packs a powerful punch with what high school Assistant Coach Britney Hays calls her “never-give-up” attitude. The daughter of Teresa Watanabe and Tato Takahama, Elise is a lifelong Bruin who started with Pee Wee Clinic as a kindergartner and is the sole remaining player on her original first grade team, now the 12th grade Knockouts. She is a four-year varsity player, serving as co-captain her junior and senior years. Despite tearing her knee ligament twice, she helped lead her team to an undefeated league season, championship title and CIFSS and state playoff semifinal runs this year. Elise made the Rio Hondo League All-League First Team her junior and senior years, Pasadena Star News All-Area First Team this year and Second Team last year and has won several other basketball awards, including the Coach’s Award for leadership, attitude and effort. Elise has also excelled academically with a 4.2 weighted GPA and accolades as a National Merit Scholarship Corp. commended student and memberships in the California Scholarship Federation, Spotlight on Excellence honor roll and Quill and Scroll Journalism Honor Society. She is active on campus as managing editor for the Copa de Oro school yearbook and ASB Commissioner of School & Community, a school-wide elected position that organizes service projects such as blood drives and fundraising for health non-profits. Elise plans to attend Boston University, studying journalism, public relations and Spanish to become a bilingual communications professional. Her future goals include travel, especially to Spain and Latin America to hone her language skills, and eventually to start a family and “a new generation of Bruins!” But Elise regards her far-flung community service as her most treasured activity. She earned her Gold, Silver and Bronze awards planting a community garden and other activities during 12 years of Girl Scouting. She also helped build a school bathroom in Ecuador, cleared turtle habitats in the Galapagos Islands, tutored underserved children in Los Angeles, coached basketball for the YMCA and Bruins Pee Wee clinic and helped out at Obon, fundraising dinners and other Pasadena Buddhist Temple events. To deepen ties with the Japanese American community, she has participated in Yonsei Basketball, Kizuna’s YouthCAN leadership program, JAO service activities and an internship with the Rafu Shimpo. For her service, Elise was awarded Optimist International Pacific Southeast District’s Youth Appreciation Award and the U.S. President’s Volunteer Service Gold Award for 250+ hours of service in one year. “Elise has shown the unique ability to combine excellence in the classroom, competing at a high level in basketball and dynamic school and community involvement,” writes her Bruins coach, Tamara Quinn. Elise’s idea for the Bruins is to build connections with the surrounding neighborhoods through basketball games, holiday crafts, caroling and service projects. “The Bruins have taught me so much about the importance of family and community through summer obons, Sunday JAO games, Pee Wee Camp and more,” Elise writes. “I would love it if I could continue to spread the Bruins values and lessons I’ve learned to other places, further strengthening both the Bruins community and the surrounding neighborhood.”
He’s a wizard on the hardwood, awash in basketball accolades. But it’s trash pickup that his high school coach talks about. South Pasadena High senior Joey Toyama scored more than 750 points this season in leading the Tigers to a co-Rio Hondo League championship and a CIFSS quarterfinals appearance. A transfer from Pasadena High, where he received the Coach’s Award and helped lead the Bulldogs to a 3AA CIF championship, Joey quickly lit up the Rio Hondo League when he joined the South Pas Tigers in his junior year. Joey won selection as the Rio Hondo co-MVP this year and All-League First Team honors both junior and senior years. The four-year varsity player, who served as captain junior year, was also selected for the all-CIFSS First Team and Pasadena Star News All-Area First Team this year. But Dave Lutzeier, South Pas head varsity basketball coach, sees fit to focus on Joey’s humility, helpfulness and character in describing how he assists in picking up garbage and recycling bottles around the gym, never speaks poorly of anyone and keeps his teammates enthusiastic and upbeat with his “infectious positive attitude.” Joey shows up early and stays late, takes copious notes on Lutzeier’s lectures, studies them hard and applies them in practices and games – setting the tone for the rest of the team, his coach says. “He has exhibited levels of leadership, determination and the courage to set a positive example for his teammates and peers that is second to none,” Lutzeier writes. “He is our hardest worker, he is our most dedicated teammate, he’s honest, he’s trustworthy, he’s a great decision maker, he’s coachable and we are lucky that we have a kid like Joey.” Joey’s work ethic was also praised by Timothy Tucker, who coached Joey at Pasadena High before he moved on to the varsity program at Maranatha. He writes that Joey learned well the lessons of hard work, time management, dedication, giving back and teamwork. The son of Julie and Steve Toyama, Joey is a lifelong Bruin who has played 12 years with the Game On team and was a four-year starter for the North/South All-Star team. He has also coached Pee Wee Clinic for the past five years and volunteered for Obon, fundraising dinners, mochitsuki and other events at the Pasadena Buddhist Temple. Around the community, Joey has helped out at South Pasadena High’s bingo fundraisers and worked as a volunteer basketball clinic coach at the Pasadena Montessori School, where he trained pre-K and 1st-grade children. Joey has also demonstrated his academic diligence with an unweighted 3.1 GPA, ranking in the top 50 as a freshman at Pasadena High. He aspires to further his basketball career by playing for Cal State Monterey Bay, Hawaii Pacific University or San Francisco State University. He plans to major in kinesiology and work as a personal trainer, reflecting a lifelong interest in health and fitness. His idea for the Bruins is to expand alumni involvement with the program, keeping them connected with reunions, social gatherings and open-gym play. “The Bruins organization has always been a big part of my life and I want to be able to give back even while I am attending college,” he writes.
Christian Lee is the quintessential scholar athlete, boasting basketball awards and a stellar academic record. But you would never know it, according to those who know him well. “Christian never acted with a hint of arrogance,” writes Danny Woo, his coach at Mark Keppel High before Christian transferred to South Pasadena High as a junior. At Keppel, Christian led his freshman and junior varsity teams to Almont League championships and was selected team MVP both years. He was also honored as the freshman boys’ team Scholar Athlete with a 3.8 GPA. Christian continued his success at South Pas, earning selection as Rio Hondo League All-League Second Team this year and Honorable Mention last year. In the community, Christian was named to the North/South All-Star team all four years. Despite his talents, Christian always demonstrated a “team-first” attitude, Woo says. “He was reluctant to establish himself offensively in games and often deferred to his teammates. In conversation with Christian, he always expressed his desire to share the ball…speaking volumes of his character and unselfishness. As a result, his teammates often fed off of Christian’s team-first approach, creating a cohesive and effective learning environment.” The son of Stephanie and Addison Lee, Christian joined the Bruins in sixth grade and continues to play with the Game On 12th grade team. He has actively volunteered as a Pee Wee Clinic prep coach and at fundraising dinners and other events for the Pasadena Buddhist Temple. Christian has also excelled in school, with an unweighted 3.67 GPA and membership on Keppel’s honor roll freshman and sophomore years. His transition to South Pas was “seamless, mostly due to his ability to make friends quickly and his easy-going nature,” writes Maria Long, his high school counselor. He will be attending Cal Poly San Luis Obispo in the fall, majoring in business, with a goal to eventually work in sales and marketing for a major athletic brand or professional sports team. “He is a young man who exudes heart, determination and positivity,” Long writes. “He can be counted on to show up, get along with others and learn tasks quickly.” Christian has also shared his talents in school and the community, volunteering for Keppel’s freshman, sophomore and junior committees and other clubs. He has also helped out with the Boy Scouts of America, Evergreen Church’s recycling program and Sunday service breakfasts, the city of Monterey Park’s toilet recycling program and Pine Tree Park beautification project, Stop Hunger Now and a fundraising run to support genetic retina disease awareness through the Gavin R. Stevens Foundation. His idea for the Bruins is to promote the advancement of high level basketball by creating more opportunities for all teams to compete in actual games with each other in an open-gym environment. Teaming up younger teams with those a year older would help them learn physical and mental toughness that would help them improve. He also suggests that parents referee “so they know how difficult it actually is.” “I feel this will improve the overall skill level of each and every participating Bruin player and prepare them for high school basketball,” he writes. “And since they will be playing with and against friends, it will be fun.”