Juan “Mito” Kudaka believes history repeats itself, because he’s lived it. At age 17, his grandfather left Japan and relocated in Peru. Even though he was unable to speak Spanish, he succeeded enough to send his three children through college. Mito benefitted from that belief in education and was better prepared when he arrived in the Fox Cities from Peru, at age 17.
“(Education) is a legacy that, in my case, keeps on giving,” Mito said in an interview in March, 12 days before he left to serve with the Peace Corps in Albania as part of his goal to do development work internationally.
Mito had lived most of his adult life in the Fox Cities – more than 20 years. He had directed diversity programs at both the Appleton Police Department and Goodwill Industries of North Central Wisconsin, and was a founder of Latino Link (now Casa Hispana).
“Now that I’m leaving, I want to leave a legacy,” he said. He accomplished that by establishing the Mito Kudaka Hispanic Scholarship Fund within the Community Foundation, which will grant 5% of the fund’s total assets each year to Casa Hispana to support its scholarship program for Hispanic students.
The fund started as a future fund (which requires a minimum gift of $1,000) at the end of August 2012. Through a combination of his own money, contributions from Casa Hispana and others, and fund-raisers, by year’s end, the fund topped the $10,000 minimum making it a permanent endowment. The money will be invested prudently by the Foundation to provide an ongoing source of support for Casa Hispana’s scholarship program.
“This is a small way to support an organization I feel is worthy of support,” Mito said, and a way to make education part of his legacy here. “I am in love with the Fox Cities. We have a caring, affluent group of people who want to challenge us to do better, otherwise we wouldn’t have a successful Community Foundation. … But at the same time, we have great needs.”
He is able to address one need, even if he isn’t among that affluent group.
“It was ridiculously simple,” Mito said about establishing a fund in his name, adding that the Foundation staff was both welcoming and helpful. He came in to the Foundation office prepared with spreadsheets and timetables to map out how the fund would operate with him on the other side of the globe, but found he just needed to sign a simple two-page agreement. “It was very, very easy,” he said.
His hope is one of the scholarships will encourage the next 17-year-old ready to contribute to the community. His advice was simple.
“Find what you’re passionate about. That’s No. 1. That pursuit of your own happiness can only be good, and that good transfers.” Participate. Ask questions.
“If there is something you’d like to do, then propose it. If nobody’s doing it, even better, then you be the first one. … You think this is a wonderful community, and it is. Try to make things that aren’t working a little better.”
By David Horst, communications specialist. Email him at [email protected].