Going back, 1942, Senior students of Newport Harbor High were busy making plans what to do after graduation. One of the soon to be graduates, Don Miyada, was busy saying goodbye to his family to board a Pacific Electric Bus in Huntington Beach to go to Arizona for an internment camp. He was forced to leave his vegetable farm on Irvine Company and worked as a truck driver at Poston War Relocation Center together with 110,000 Japanese American Citizen like him.

That time, Japanese Americans are treated like enemies in their own country. It was only in 1944 when the US government finally let them return to their homes. Though a citizen of the country, he felt that his hands were tied because they cannot do anything when the government told them to go to the center; they are left with no choice but to follow. Seven decades after, Miyada, 89 will return to his high school to walk together with the class of 2014 in its graduation ceremony. Seniors of the Newport High invited him after they learned his story in the internment camp and in his service in the US army during World War II.

Don Miyada

Don Miyada Finally Graduated after 72 Years

Senior class President Wyatt Robertson was quoted saying that if a senior did something wrong, he is not allowed to graduate. They know that attending and walking at the graduation ceremony is so important and to deny graduation to someone is really really wrong. Miyada said that being invited in the graduation ceremony was a nice move and his gratitude to his alma mater dates back many many years ago in the weeks after the Pearl Harbor bombing. Why? because as per Mr. Miyada, it was very easy for other students and teachers to mock and treat the many Japanese American students at the school with anger and hostility but they did not. Everyone was so decent and accepting of them.

He vividly recalls his civics teacher then, Mr. Roy Andersen, he told Miyada that he could still get his diploma after leaving. He even persuaded him to work on the necessary documents for graduation. Andersen also sent him a letter in the camp, telling him that he had officially graduated from high school. His civics teacher, Andersen later became the Newport-Mesa Unified School District’s superintendent. Miyada was not sure if the rest of his classmates that are in the internment camp also received their diplomas. The thought of a ceremony was not a top notch priority for him. It only meant to him that he will no longer need to repeat his senior year in the camp’s temporary classrooms with inexperienced teachers.

When his internment ended, he did not return to Newport because he was drafted into the the 100th infantry battalion at the 442nd regimental combat team of the US army. He served in Italy, France and Germany. When the war ended, he studied at UCLA and earned his bachelor’s degree in Chemistry. He then enrolled at Michigan State University and eventually he earned his doctorate in Chemistry.

He did not attend both graduations opting to watch from the stand with his parents. After he received his doctorate, he moved to California and met his wife of 64 years. He then teaches at UC Irvine.

It is interesting to note, that his wife was also forced into an internment camp at 9 years old. Humble and soft spoken, Miyada admits that students now will have their own set of challenges to pass through before finishing their respective schooling.

He will be inducted in the Newport High School hall of fame together with other members which includes athletes, military personnel, artists, educators and philanthropists. All awardees symbolize the school’s value by doing well and excelling in their chosen fields.

Category: Interesting

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