The Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival’s 33rd annual Community Service Scholarship Program awarded two $2,500 scholarships to deserving high school graduates headed to college. Applicants were required to attend an accredited high school with a grade point average minimum of 2.5 on a scale of 4.0 and be actively involved in her or his local community.  The program is administered by the San Francisco Nikkei Lions Club. The winners were selected on the basis of commitment to their community, written essays, academic achievement, and personal character. This year, the scholarships were presented to Misako Heather Ormiston and Marcus Kwok-Chu Lo. 

Misako Heather Ormiston is a graduating senior from Notre Dame High School in San Jose. She plans to major in Psychology and Neuroscience/History/Performing Arts with emphasis in medicine and health care. Misako is the Senior Class Vice President, involved in the STEAM Project, and an Advanced Placement Scholar with Distinction.  She is a Reischauer Scholar studying with Stanford faculty, a participant in the Brown University Engineering Biomedical Systems studying polymeric delivery vehicles, and a participant in the Stanford CNI-X Clinical Neuroscience Immersion program. Outside of academia, she is a principal dancer at the Pacific Ballet Academy and a member of the San Jose Junior Taiko Performing Ensemble. 

Misako is the co-founder of a group called MAD4Charity which promotes awareness of and fundraisers for social justice issues. The group has raised over $27,000 the past five years for organizations such as Loaves and Fishes, Asian Liver Center, Erika’s Lighthouse, and the Nepal Youth Foundation. She is an active volunteer in her community. One volunteer experience with the Mountain View’s Day Worker Center has made her aware of the gravity of the socio-economic inequalities in her own community. A staff worker with the Day Worker Center observed that “Misako always listened carefully to the stories the workers have to share, respected the workers and offered suggestions when they asked. I know she is always there to lend a hand or a listening ear.” 

Marcus Kwok-Chu Lo is a graduating senior from Carmel High School. Marcus plans to attend New York University majoring in Computer Systems, Engineering and Business Finance. Marcus has volunteered at United Way as a volunteer tax accountant, a youth group leader at YoungNak Presbyterian Church, and at the Big Sur International Marathon and the Monterey Bay Half Marathon for the past four years. He is the founder and president of the Business and Entrepreneurship Club at Carmel High School, part of the Carmel High School Robotics Team, and Carmel High School Science Olympiad Team founder/President, all the while being the Senior Class President! He is also the co-captain of the varsity golf team. He is a Stanford University Artificial Intelligence Student Programmer and has developed an AI/machine learning chess player.

Marcus knows that “serving in the community will always be part of my goal in life, whether it is financially, academically or my venture of computer science and entrepreneurship.” One of his high school math teachers commented that, “[Marcus] wants to make a difference in the best possible way to all those he comes in contact with.” His Youth Pastor added that, “he took a chance to visit China and Japan to mentor orphans in 2018 and 2019. Marcus often talks about his life changing experience that he learned which increased his passion to help others in need.”