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May 10, 2023
YMCA of MEWSA Celebrates Asian Pacific American Heritage Month
May is Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. The YMCA of MEWSA is celebrating the history of Asian Pacific Islanders within the YMCA by sharing moments and individuals that were instrumental in the shaping of the Y movement we all know today.
Did you know that the first Chinese American YMCA was founded in San Francisco in 1911? The Y held lectures on health, education, classes in English and Mandarin and had a machine shop! To this day, the Chinatown YMCA plays a pivotal role in the community.
Duke Kahanamoku was a gold medal Olympic swimmer who trained at the Central Y, setting world records for the 400 and 500 relay races in 1916. Following his Olympic career retirement, Kahanamoku traveled giving swimming exhibitions—it was during this time that he popularized the sport of surfing in the United States, which previously had only been known in Hawaii.
Born in 1914, Fred Hoshiyama worked for the YMCA full time for 39 years—from 1941 through 1980—except for his time in a government internment camp during WWII. While in this camp, Hoshiyama created YMCA-based programs to help address the social, educational and recreational needs of the Japanese Americans held in the camp.
Hoshiyama was also the founder and national director of YMCA’s National Youth Program Using Mini-Bikes and helped to establish the National Association of Student YMCAs in the 1970s, revitalizing the YMCA student movement. Today, a scholarship in his name provides professional development for Y staff of Asian Pacific Islander heritage.
We honor the history of these individuals and thank them for building a greater legacy for the YMCA.