By Tomas Kassahun | Reporter
As a child growing up in Chicago, Deborah Ikeda learned the value of hard work. Ikeda spent most of her weekends helping her father, who owned a small wire product factory. As her father made display racks for companies such as Hallmark, Ikeda and her siblings were there to do whatever was asked of them.
“My siblings and I went to the factory on weekends. We learned how to pack for shipping, learned how to weld,” Ikeda said. “It was a good way to learn to work. When you work in a family owned business, you learn what hard work is.”
Today, Ikeda strives to bring that same type of dedication as she serves on the State Center Community College District Board of Trustees. The former Clovis Community College President won the seat in Area 6 this past November, beating longtime trustee Patrick Patterson.
“I saw the importance of giving back to the community. That’s the value I learned from both my parents. You learned to make decisions,” Ikeda said. “One of the first things my father taught us was to work hard. Don’t quit till the job is done.”
Ikeda’s parents met in Manzanar, a Japanese-American internment camp in California during WWII.
“They were essentially in jail for three years,” Ikeda said. “They had not done anything wrong. It’s just because they were Japanese-Americans.”
Growing up in Chicago, Ikeda learned to be strong like her parents. But even she couldn’t stand the frigid winters of the “Windy City.”
“I wanted to go to a warmer place, so I applied for Dean of Students for Counseling and Guidance at Fresno City College,” she said.
The former counselor at Loop City College in Chicago didn’t have problems getting the job in Fresno. Equipped with a Bachelor of Science degree in elementary education and a Masters of Education in counseling psychology from University of Illinois, Ikeda felt prepared to serve in California.
Especially with her time at Loop City College, now known as Harold Washington College, Ikeda said she helped a diverse group of students.
“Students from all over the city came there, not just one particular neighborhood,” Ikeda said. “We focused primarily on students interested in career technical education as it relates to business, accounting, marketing, things in that area that supported downtown businesses.”
With her experience in Chicago and Fresno, as well as her relation to Clovis, Ikeda now looks forward to serving on the Board of Trustees.
“I have been active in the Clovis community for some time and so has my husband’s family,” Ikeda said. “My husband’s family is from Clovis. His father went to school here, was raised here as a Cougar.”
Ikeda’s husband, Dale, also helped set up the Pinedale Assembly Center Memorial, dedicated to Japanese-Americans who were confined at the Pinedale Assembly Center during WWII.
“Fresno has the distinction of being the site of two interment sites. One was in the Pinedale neighborhood and the other is at the Fresno Fairgrounds,” Ikeda added. “Dale was instrumental in helping with both those assembly center memorial projects with the help of a number of community organizations as well as people in the community.”