Tula Kurashige is a senior at Garfield High School in Seattle, Washington. Tula founded and serves as president of Garfield's Japanese Student Association (JSA), and presides over a coalition of thirty Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) student leaders. Spending her early years of high school in Michigan and Texas, Tula felt isolated as the only Asian American student in her classes, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. After moving to Seattle her junior year, Tula aimed to prevent other AAPI students from feeling the isolation she experienced. As JSA president, Tula led weekly meetings on Japanese American culture, diaspora, and history, cultivating a deeper understanding of identity through an intersectional lens. To mark the 80th anniversary of Executive Order 9066, JSA constructed an educational display around WWII incarceration, folded over 300 origami cranes in protest of ICE detention centers, and taught the history of incarcerated Japanese Peruvians to Spanish language classes. Tula also organized multiple service opportunities, including a clothing and toiletry drive benefiting elders and unhoused community members in Seattle's Chinatown-International District and volunteering at the Japanese Cultural and Community Center of Washington. To organize school-wide cultural events, Tula brought together ten other officers from Garfield's AAPI affinity groups to form an AAPI Coalition. In May of 2022, the AAPI Coalition’s Celebration of Joy, which aimed to build community and visibility post-pandemic, drew over 150 attendees. Following the event, three new affinity groups formed, and the AAPI Coalition grew to a team of over thirty. With this community momentum, Tula sought to build racial solidarity and intersectional justice, and combat the segregating effects of tracking and Advanced Placement programming within her school. In February, the AAPI Coalition developed and led a series of educational summits that garnered a daily attendance of over 220 students. Curriculum included analyses of the model minority myth, racial triangulation, colorism, anti-Blackness and historical solidarity building. Outside of Garfield High School, Tula has created community murals with the organization Urban ArtWorks, and designed cover art for a zine around displacement in Seattle's Chinatown-International District with Densho, which documents the testimonies of Japanese Americans who were unjustly incarcerated during World War II, and Wing Luke Museum’s after-school program, YouthCAN.
2023 - SEATTLE