Unlike many of the other students on campus, Kurisaki is 77 years old.
After years of putting the priorities of her family first, the great-great-grandmother will walk across the stage on June 11 at the College of Business Administration commencement ceremony to receive her degree.
“It’s been a hard journey but if I had to do it again I’d do it again,” Kurisaki says. “This will be one of my greatest accomplishments.”
Kurisaki, who graduated from high school in 1951, became a college student by accident. The Los Angeles native moved to Upland in 1999 to care for her children’s grandmother who was stricken with Alzheimer’s disease. Kurisaki began taking computer classes at Chaffey College as a way to escape the stress of caring for someone with a serious illness. With encouragement from professors and family, she began pursuing her associate’s degree. Then, she was attending college fairs to see which universities offered the best business programs.
From the moment Kurisaki walked on the Cal Poly Pomona campus, she has made an impression. At least one student in every class tells Kurisaki they are inspired by her, she says. Whenever students complain about their workload or don’t want to wake up when the alarm goes off, they think of Kurisaki and her work ethic.
Management and human resources Professor Deborah Brazeal also says that Kurisaki is a role model.
“She touches everybody she meets,” Brazeal says. “When she was in my class, she took on a mentoring role with some of the students. She learned from them too, especially new trends like Facebook and social media. We had this really terrific learning environment where everyone was giving back.
Kurisaki’s journey toward a college degree, however, has not been easy.
The management and human resources student has had cataract surgery and knee replacement surgery, the latter of which forced her to take a leave of absence. There were days when Kurisaki wanted to quit but the hopes and expectations of so many professors kept her going, she says.
“The people that I have met on this journey have really made a big difference in my whole life,” Kurisaki says. “I think of the times when I wanted to stop or I wanted to give up and would I look around at some of my professors. They believed in me and I couldn’t let them down. I just had to keep going.”