For many of us, college graduation is a highlight in our lives, but for thousands of first generation Japanese-Americans, known as Nisei, that opportunity was ripped from them in World War II when the U.S government forced them into internment camps.
"here was a lot done wrong to these students. The object was to put them in the camps for their own protection but it disrupted their lives, interrupted their studies and made them pick up in a whole different place," said Bakersfield College spokesperson Amber Chiang.
As a result, many college students including those from Bakersfield were pulled out of school. Some were just days shy of graduation.
"When you're in college, you have all these dreams ahead of you and for them it was interrupted. Some of them had to complete behind barb wire," said Aya Ino, Coordinator for the California Nisei College Diploma Project.
So to help rectify the injustice, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and several California colleges and universities are searching for Nisei students to give them an honorary diploma and chance to participate in this year's graduation ceremonies.
"We think it's important because it's a promise being fulfilled 67 years later and the honorees deserve every bit of recognition they can get because they waited for such a long time," said Ino.
Bakersfield College so far has identified 30 students who were imprisoned. Now it's just a matter of tracking them down.
"Many of them were born here in Delano and Arvin because their families worked in fields," said Chiang.
Chiang says its important for those Nisei students or their family members to step forward.
"This is the colleges way of letting them know we haven't forgotten them, this part of history for the college and country," said Chiang.
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