Building Empathy is a project of PEF and PUSD, with support from the California State Library and California Humanities

Community Voices & Reflections

Throughout the professional development sessions and student research for projects, members of the broader community had the chance to share their voices and experiences.

Leslie Ito

Leslie A. Ito serves as Executive Director of the Armory Center for the Arts in Pasadena. Prior to this position, she was the President & CEO of the Japanese American Cultural & Community Center, one of the largest ethnic arts and cultural centers of its kind in the U.S. She has also served as Executive Director of Visual Communications, the nation’s premiere Asian American media arts organization. In 2016, Ito was awarded the Stanton Fellowship from the Durfee Foundation focusing on how community-based, ethnic specific organizations can reinvent themselves for a new generation in a changing social context and evolving cultural ecology. A native of Pasadena and a Yonsei, fourth-generation Japanese American, Ito attended Stanford University Graduate School of Business’ Executive Program for Non Profit Leaders. She received a Master of Arts in Asian American Studies from the University of California, Los Angeles and a Bachelor of Arts in American Studies from Mount Holyoke College.

In September 2023, Ito joined the Building Empathy team and shared the story of her great grandfather’s imprisonment in Poston [Concentration Camp] in Arizona as well as her family’s history in California.

Recordings of Jessica Kashiwabara and Mathew Kodama are under development and will be available soon.

Photo: Teachers, coaches, and project managers pose with guest Leslie Ito, who brought a reproduction of a poster displaying Executive Order 9066; Photo by Fabiola Acevedo

Audio recordings collected by Building Empathy director Sehba Sarwar and edited by Pasadena Media’s sound engineer Joe Carbonetta.

Page Header Photo: Writer Jessica Kashiwabara leads a workshop with Mayte Hernandez’s English class at Pasadena High School.

What we hear!

“To be completely honest, I did not know a lot about the history of the Executive Order [9066], and how they lived during those times. But I think it was a really good experience to see first-hand from people that were there and from the relatives [of survivors], so they could explain to us about how hard it was for them to get through that time…”
—Diego, Blair International Baccalaureate School