The mission of providing Markham Middle School students with a high quality education is a personal one for Kawasaki.
In her Principal's Message on the school's website, she said she immigrated to the United States when she was 2-years-old, and later attended Eastman Elementary School, Stevenson Jr. High and Hamilton High School Music Academy while growing up in East L.A. She is also a mother of two college students, and wants for her students what she would want for her own kids. She wants EMMS to be the "heart and gem" of the Watts community, and encourages others to become active members of the school.
"I think a community like Watts has a lot of hidden gems," Kawasaki said. "The goal of a lot of the educators at Edwin Markham Middle School has been bringing out that talent in education, in sports and finding the gifts that students have, and really bringing that out and encouraging students to pursue whatever they want to do in life. And that foundation starts here with just somebody believing in them, and having the right people on campus to do that has been probably the biggest task."
One of the events that helps build that relationship is the Turkey Bowl, where the school creates two teams – students against staff. They go out to the field about an hour and a half before the end of the day on the last day before Thanksgiving week. Kawasaki said the game gets competitive and builds community.
Students are supported in other ways, too, which is where the $5,000 donation from the Rams Foundation – which Albertsons, Vons and Pavilions matched – comes into play.
"In educating students, it's not just about books and learning, but finding, what are some of the gaps that they have in their lives, to make sure that they're successful," Kawasaki said. "We want to make sure that our students come to school knowing that we understand that they have challenges, but that we're also here to find ways to support them in those challenges so that all they have to worry about is just coming to school, learning and thinking about what they're going to do 10 years from now."