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Stella Asawa Yano, a Japanese American, grew up on a farm in the city of Norwalk, the youngest of five children. She attended Fullerton College in the early 1940s, proving herself a good student by earning mostly As and Bs in her classes. In the spring of 1942, just a few months short from graduating, her life took a turn in an unexpected direction.
The U.S. government relocated Yano and her family to an internment camp in Arkansas as a part of President Roosevelt’s Executive Order 9066, which called for the forced movement and imprisonment of all Japanese Americans from the West Coast. With nowhere else to turn for support, Yano and her family had to abandon their crops, puppy, and two horses, leaving them with the owner of the land they farmed. They remained in Arkansas throughout World War II.
In 1943, Yano received permission to leave the relocation center at Rohwer, Arkansas, eagerly departing the site for Cleveland. Though she later enrolled in a few college courses, she never finished her degree. In 2010, Fullerton College awarded both Yano and her childhood friend, Mitsuko Yasukochi Funakoshi, honorary Associate degrees as part of the California Nisei College Diploma Project. Currently, she resides in Norwalk, spending much of her time volunteering at a local senior center.
"That's an emotion that still stays with me. I grew up thinking I was an American. I was born in America."
— Stella Asawa Yano
Honorary A.A., Fullerton College, 2010