La’akea Yoshida

UW College of Education students La’akea Yoshida and Christina Black dreamed of doing a world of good as educators. “My entire life, I have wanted to make a difference in the classroom,” says Christina, a recent master’s in teaching graduate and recipient of the Daniel V. Iyall Student Support Fund. Her Alaska Native grandfather never had the opportunity to attend college, nor her mother, who raised Christina and her siblings as a single parent. Now a mother herself, she sought to show her daughter that “education is important, and we can pursue it regardless of barriers.”

Christina dared to push past those barriers and successfully juggled her education and raising her daughter, a feat she could not have accomplished without the endowment. As a teacher, Christina plans on showing her students that education can open doors, and she recently was featured in a Seattle Times story about building relationships and discussing race openly with students in one of Seattle's most diverse schools. “I want to cultivate a classroom of students who believe in themselves and are proud to go out and be the change they want to see in the world.”

La’akea was also the first in his family to attend college. “My family has never been rich, but we are wealthy in aloha,” says La’akea, who has Native Hawaiian ancestry. Now pursuing his Ph.D. in Education Leadership and Policy Studies at the UW — his first choice for Ph.D. programs — La’akea hopes to become an advocate for indigenous peoples through teaching. The Kenneth A. Sirotnik Endowed Fellowship for Leadership & Social Justice in Education funds his passionate work and enables him to support his growing family, including 1-year-old son Ke’amaholu.

“The Sirotnik Endowed Fellowship is a gift for which I cannot begin to express my gratitude. I know there have been others before me, and there will be others after me,” says La’akea. “This fellowship has and will continue to make higher education dreams come true.”


Dustin Wunderlich, Director for Marketing and Communications