Kirsten Okamoto pushes herself to be her best, for others
While the actual job title may not be set, the occupation that Kirsten Okamoto is shooting for could be defined as a professional helper. Kirsten knows where she will go to college in the fall and what she wants to be her major – Electrical Engineering. But those are just steps to what she wants to do with her life. She wants to help.
At 17 years old, the Rossmoor resident is already working like a season professional to help. She helps other young women. She helps seals and sea lions and she is impassioned to help the planet. In the past few years, she has worked tirelessly on projects that catch her attention. Her father said she has already become a global citizen.
“She’s pretty amazing, she seems to be such a self-starter,” her father, Karlton Okamoto said.
Kirsten was invited to serve as delegate to both United Nations 2020 64th and 2021 65th World Conference for the Status of Women (CSW) to represent Girl Scouts U.S.A. Oh yeah, she’s also a Girl Scout Gold Award winner.
After the 2020 United Nations World Conference for the Status of Women was postponed due to the pandemic, Kirsten used the time to work with Girl Scouts USA to develop a curriculum for a six-week virtual series on Global Gender Equality. She was the GSUSA event speaker at the 65th CSW in March, where she addressed world leaders in support of the “girl child.”
The girl child section of the conference was created to address atrocities such as human trafficking, genital mutilation and female infanticide that occur globally.
Kirsten is a senior at the Sato Academy of Math and Science in Long Beach. She’s been involved in Girl Scouts for 13 years and recently initiated a Take Action Project for her Gold Award. She developed and taught a class to younger Junior Lifeguard participants on the rescue and conservation of seals and sea lions. She became concerned when she learned of the increasing rate of the marine mammals become stranded.
Kirsten spent about 80 hours developing the project, enlisting help from teachers at her school and Peter Wallerstein, the president and founder of Marine Mammal Rescue, based in El Segundo. Once the project was complete, Kristen trained about 177 Seal Beach Junior Lifeguards on marine mammal conservation and rescue. The class also helped increase awareness of global climate change and pollution and their effects on marine mammal health.
“I saw the need to train them about seal and sea lion conservation,” Kirsten said.
Having joined Jr. Lifeguards just four years ago, Kristen has quickly taken up ocean and environmental conservation as one of her strongest passions, she said. Ironic for a young lady who didn’t know much about the ocean when she joined Jr. Guards.
“Before Jr. Guards, I had never really swum in the ocean,” She said.
Sato Academy teacher Christi Phelps, who helped Kirsten with the research with her Gold Award project, said that Kirsten’s organization and attention to detail are two of the traits that make her so proficient in her projects. She also noted that she already has database research skills that rival those of master’s degree students.
“This young lady has been working at a collegiate level, with respect to organization, since her freshman year,” Phelps said.
Phelps said that Kirsten’s focus is already on that of being a contributor to her global community. She said she is very driven and is already looking at issues that influence the environment, women’s rights and immigration. Kirsten was recently accepted to the USC Viterbi School of Engineering, where she plans to major in electrical e ngineering. However, she will use that background to focus on Data Science, which she said is evolving into a science that can contribute to a wide variety of fields and causes.
At Sato Academy she founded a group called “Women Masterminds” an all-female, multi-ethnic team of aspiring engineers to compete at the 2019 UC Irvine Energy Invitational. The team engineered an electric racing vehicle that competed in a race to drive the farthest distance in 60 minutes, using less than 60 cents worth of energy.
The team won first place in the vehicle race and took second place in the vehicle design presentation. For Kirsten almost as rewarding was the chance to mentor younger students to push for their equal right to compete and follow their dreams in the STEM field.
Kristen has also been a part of the National Charity League for the past six years. She volunteers at Precious Life Shelter and did a summer internship with Leadership Initiatives at Georgetown University. When she does take a break from work, Kirsten likes to surf, go hiking and spend time with her dogs, Katie, a Chihuahua and Sophie, a poodle.
While Kirsten is driven to work and works to help others, she does not go about it alone. She seeks out those who she can help and does not hesitate to seek out those who can help her in her pursuits. When she hits a snag, she doesn’t get frustrated.
“She never gives up, her grit amazes me,” Phelps said.