The soft spoken, yet fierce Wendy Tokuda was born in Seattle in 1950, the fourth of five children. Her father George and her mother Tama met in Minedoka, one of the internment camps to which West Coast Japanese Americans were forcibly relocated after the start of World War II. After graduating college in 1968, Tokuda spent a year at Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington before majoring in political science at the University of Washington.
Tokuda’s overall goal was to become a lawyer, and she spent a year working at a legal services clinic. At the age of 24, she started as a secretary in the public affairs department for Seattle’s King TV. Within 19 months, Tokuda was promoted to on-air reporter. At the age of 27 she left her family to work for KPIX, San Francisco’s CBS affiliate. In1991 Tokuda was ready to move to KNBC in Los Angeles to work in the nation’s number 2 TV market. By 1997 Tokuda returned to the Bay Area as an anchor at San Francisco’s KRON. She began her series Students Rising Above to spotlight hard-luck teens struggling to get an education. She has spent the past 13 years improving and working for this program. She took the series to KPIX when she returned there in April of 2007 and continues it to this day. Tokuda also raised over $3.8 million to help send the subjects to college.
Tokuda has reported on news in the Bay Area for almost 30 years. Although she is currently retired, she continues to do work with the “Students Rising Above” program that helps low-income, at-risk Bay Area teenagers.
Tokuda takes great pride in this program and created the spotlight series that highlighted the students in a segment she called “Students Rising Above”. This nationally recognized series won a Peabody Award, a National Emmy for Public Service, the national Sigma Delta Chi Public Service Award, the NAB Education Foundation’s “Service to America” Award and the Temple Award for Creative Altruism. The series led to the creation of the non-profit Students Rising Above, which has raised millions of dollars to help send these students to college.
Founded in 1998 by Tokuda, and Community Relations Manager, Javier Valencia Students Rising Above has become a very successful organization that invests in low-income students who are the first of their families to go to college. This organization is committed to helping students to reach their potential and breaking the cycle of poverty within their own families. She is also on the Leadership Council for the organization.
Students Rising Above commitment is to guide students through the college application process all the way to college graduation. They then help students transition into the workforce with career guidance and networking opportunities. The students that this organization serves come from extremely low-income families. Ninety-eight percent of the students are the first in their families to attend college, while eighty-one percent of their students live below the federal poverty level, and seventy-three percent come from foster care or do not live at home. Today, this program has grown into an independent 501(c)3 non-profit organization with broad community support. The diverse student body of Students Rising Above includes some of the best and brightest. Members of this program attend many of the finest universities across the United States including UC Berkeley, Stanford, Princeton, Yale, and Harvard.
Tokuda is an extraordinary individual who loves giving back to her community and does her best to give to those who need it. Even after being retired she still is very involved in her organization that directly helps children and families with getting through college. Such an amazing individual deserves great praise for what they do and Wendy Tokuda deserves every bit of applause!