This past Sunday I had the privilege of photographing a high school graduation. However, it was nothing at all like your typical graduation. Instead of parents in the audience, it was sons and daughters, and the graduates had not a lifetime of possibility ahead of them, but a lifetime of experiences to reflect back upon. Held in the Los Angeles Trade Tech College auditorium, the graduation is one of many made possible by the California Nisei High School Diploma Project. The project was made possible by Assembly Bill 781, which according to the project website:
…authorizes any high school district, unified school district or County Office of Education to retroactively issue a high school diploma to any person of Japanese descent whose high school education was interrupted due to forced removal and incarceration from California during World War II.
60 graduates were present for this ceremony and more than 400 diplomas have been given out since the bill became law in 2004. Speakers reflected on their times in camp, both good and bad, and explained how receiving a diploma gave them a sense of completion to a high school experience that ended so abruptly.