Meet our Students
Meet Sayuri Tomimura
MiraCosta College Medal of Honor winner and 2009 graduate Sayuri Tomimura was only 16 years old and a resident of Japan when she first visited the United States.
An ambitious student at Hiyoshigaoka High School in Kyoto, Japan, Sayuri enrolled in a foreign student exchange program that allowed her to switch places with another student from the San Dieguito High School Academy in Encinitas for three weeks. When the program ended, Sayuri returned to Japan to finish high school, taking back wonderful memories of a California adventure and a dream to return someday.
“Japan is a hard society for women to excel in,” says Sayuri. My parents did not have the ability to pay for me to go to college, but I still had a dream to return to Encinitas someday. I kept my dream alive by continuing to study English throughout high school.”
After graduating, Sayuri spent two years in Japan working at three minimum-wage jobs in factories and retail while she continued to study English. She also contacted her Encinitas family from the student exchange program and started researching community colleges where she could study English and live in San Diego’s North County.
In the fall of 2005, Sayuri moved back to Encinitas and enrolled at MiraCosta College. She started in the English as a Second Language (ESL) noncredit program where she met two helpful instructors, Melissa Lloyd-Jones and Mary Gross.
“Originally I thought I would just study English,” reflects Sayuri. “But once I enrolled in the ESL program, my mentors gave me the confidence to reach more academic goals. Because English is my second language, I struggled in reading, writing, listening and even socializing. The faculty understood my difficulties and patiently supported me during that challenging time. I really enjoyed MiraCosta’s academic support services.”
After finishing her first year at MiraCosta College, Sayuri ran out of money and returned to Japan, where she resumed a rigorous work schedule of three low-level jobs and saved her money. During that time, she stayed on her academic pathway by enrolling in online classes at MiraCosta College. In less than one year, Sayuri was able to return to the MiraCosta College campus with the money needed to resume her classroom education. There, she met a woman who would change her life.
“My business class instructor, Christina Hata, took me under her wing and focused me,” says Sayuri. “She pushed me to perform better academically. She encouraged me to take a variety of classes to expand my options.”
Becoming more articulate and secure with the English language and gaining more confidence through supportive mentors, Sayuri’s opportunities for campus life really opened up. She was recommended to be a peer leader at the college’s International Students office working with students from all over the world. This led to her involvement with the International Club, and she signed up for a Chinese class. Her keen interest in Chinese led her to tutoring other students and she eventually became a tutor in ESL, English 100, and accounting and business classes, which helped pay her educational expenses.
By her third year, Sayuri had earned two MiraCosta College scholarships that helped pay for her books. She became a 2009 Medal of Honor recipient and received the Emerson Network Power Scholars Internship. Graduating from MiraCosta College with an A.A. degree in business, she applied to and was accepted at San Diego State University where she graduated in 2011 with a B.A. in finance.
Sayuri’s bilingual abilities and her well-rounded education have given her the options to pursue a career in international business and finance. She attributes her success to her hard work and the dedication of her supportive MiraCosta College mentors.“I am so grateful to everyone at MiraCosta College that supported me. I loved the support and all of the teachers that were willing to help. I tell other students to be engaged and take advantage of all the benefits at MiraCosta College. My life changed when I got involved in the clubs, volunteering, internships and tutoring. My mentors helped me to be the best that I can be.”