Mr. Yoshihara is “Bustin’ Barriers” Both Inside and Outside of the La Salle Community


Julia Tran

Mr. Yoshihara is in charge of diversity, equity, and inclusion support and is an assistant varsity boys basketball coach.

Maya Smith, Editor

When looking at La Salle’s staff members, it’s easy to notice that not many are people of color.

According to Ms. Lisa Daniels, La Salle’s Director of Communications, “of La Salle’s 90 regularly scheduled full- and part-time staff members, nine identify as a member of one of the minority groups defined by the U.S. Census Bureau.”

Combined with a predominantly white student body, many students of color have reported feeling a lack of connection and understanding within the school community.

In recent years, La Salle has been trying to address this issue through a variety of initiatives, including having staff members participate in equity trainings, supporting the creation of affinity groups, and hosting all-school assemblies to discuss the experiences that students have had.

This school year, La Salle took another step towards welcoming diversity and inclusion, by creating a new staff position for diversity, equity, and inclusion support, which was filled by Mr. Andrew Yoshihara.

In the past, you may have seen Mr. Yoshihara around the school campus, as he is now in the midst of his fourth season as an assistant coach for the boys varsity basketball team.

Even though he has been working with La Salle for almost four years, this is his first year truly being a part of  La Salle’s staff. Through his past coaching experience, Mr. Yoshihara has already worked with students at La Salle and learned some of their experiences.

“I’ve just heard stories and different things, racial inequality and… different issues that have happened over the years that I have been at La Salle, and probably way before,” he said.

As a coach, Mr. Yoshihara talked to Principal Andrew Kuffner, expressing that he wanted to engage with the La Salle community. They started working together to create a staff position that would support students of color during the spring of last school year.

“[I did not suggest the position] necessarily with [myself] in mind to get it, but just to have that position in place,” he said. “I was just really seeing a lot of kids here, brown kids, that were hurting, and also a lot of white kids who wanted to be allies but just didn’t really know how.”

Mr. Kuffner acknowledged that before Mr. Yoshihara, La Salle has had no African Americans on staff since the 2017-2018 school year.

“We recognized that and were like, ‘oh my gosh, how can especially our African American kids see themselves as part of the community if we don’t even have someone on staff,’” Mr. Kuffner said.

In recent years, La Salle has been taking steps to develop their support system for students of color, including sending staff members to participate in equity cohorts from the Center for Equity and Inclusion, and now Mr. Yoshihara has taken on this new position.

Mr. Kuffner values what Mr. Yoshihara brings to La Salle.

“I appreciate him, just as who he is and [I] very much value that he sees that he can come into my office and tell me what’s going on, or advocate for a group of kids,” Mr. Kuffner said. “When you specifically target a person here to serve a population that hasn’t had an outlet, that hasn’t seen someone like them that they could go to, an adult, that’s powerful.”

“For him to then bring what they’re experiencing and what they’re sharing to me and to the administrative team, and to everybody, that’s been very meaningful,” Mr. Kuffner said.

Issues within the La Salle community are usually brought to Mr. Yoshihara by students. When problems do arise, he said, “I usually work with Mr. Devine, and then we kind of figure out a plan of how we’re going to deal with that issue.”

History teacher Mr. Peter Snow enjoys the “breath of fresh air” that Mr. Yoshihara brings with his openness to allow both students and staff members to express what they want to.

“Other teachers have asked him to come into their classroom,” Mr. Snow said. “I’ve gone to him and asked him some questions about some stuff before I taught it, just as a sounding board, adding additional perspective for me to consider, and for when he’s in classrooms for other students to consider, I think is a big plus for La Salle.”

Mr. Yoshihara is working to create relationships between himself, students, and other staff members this school year. He feels it’s important to have strong relationships, especially in a college prep school, where students and staff might tend to get caught up in schoolwork, and not form strong bonds with one another.

Mr. Yoshihara said that he is “hearing people’s stories about what their experiences [are] here, as a staff member, as a student, and then how we’re kind of bridging that gap so that our kids are feeling supported.”

Mr. Snow feels that with Mr. Yoshihara and his position, it is the first time for many students that they feel there’s someone they can talk to that actually looks like them, and can understand what they’re going through.

“Mr. Yoshihara’s ability to put students at ease and let people come [to him] and talk and be an advocate, I think is something that has to be a big plus,” Mr. Snow said.

Sophomore Brooklyn Turner said Mr. Yoshihara has helped her through a lot. “[He] is always there for all his students and being a great advocate for anything you need,” she said. “He listens to everyone and is always open to hearing everyone’s experiences, no matter [their] background.”

Working from ten until two, Mr. Yoshihara’s day usually consists of listening to and supporting students, and addressing equity issues when they arise.

“I feel super fortunate at La Salle to be around such intelligent, thoughtful kids,” he said. “I think this place has a lot of really great students, and having worked in education for a long time, it’s refreshing to be around kids like you all.”

Through his work, Mr. Yoshihara said that he becomes inspired by young minds and all the energy they have. “I’m in my 40’s now…I’m kind of tired, and [I] wake up kind of grumpy sometimes,” he said. “I have kids in my office smiling and being energized, [and] it makes me remember why I do this work.”

Mr. Yoshihara is also now the new staff leader of the Black Student Union.

“It’s been really awesome,” he said. Reflecting on the Martin Luther King, Jr. assembly, Mr. Yoshihara said that he “thought that [it] went really well and I was really proud of the La Salle community for their level of respect and [participation].”

Serving as an adult voice and resource for the BSU, Mr. Yoshihara helps students when issues need to be addressed. “In the past when we’ve had certain issues surrounding race here, the kids have had to kind of respond to it, versus having someone here, kind of in my position to respond as a voice for the kids,” he said.

Recently, La Salle has had a few parent equity meetings, where an equity statement and lens is trying to be built.

“As we’re making decisions at the school for policies and procedures and all kinds of stuff… you know it’s a group effort, and not just some white men and women sitting in a room” making decisions that impact all students, Mr. Yoshihara said.

Some of Mr. Yoshihara’s goals at La Salle include bringing in more people of color into the community, and ensuring that everyone feels supported.

“My goal here [is to]… have the narrative of La Salle change on the streets with people,” he said. “So they feel there are people of color here, [and that] there’s a support system here for them.”

Outside of La Salle, Mr. Yoshihara’s life is taken up by parenting his three kids with his wife, and his non-profit organization, all of which he is very passionate about.

Mr. Yoshihara used to be a foster parent, but has now adopted two of the foster children he had.

Bustin’ Barriers is the non-profit Mr. Yoshihara has been running for almost ten years. It was founded in 2012 for kids with disabilities, helping them get involved with sports.

“It is a volunteer based organization, so most of our volunteers are high school kids,” Mr. Yoshihara said. “A lot of them come from the local private schools, due to service hour [requirements], so we help fulfil kids’ service hours.”

Volunteers have the option to help out all through the summer, which results in a lot of service hours for students who need them.

Bustin’ Barriers attempts to give children “access to opportunities in terms of sports and teams, and some of the things they’ve missed out on due to their disability, or different ability,” Mr. Yoshihara said.

When attempting to make a community more inclusive, Mr. Yoshihara feels people have to be comfortable being uncomfortable.

“People need to commit to being a little uncomfortable and having uncomfortable conversations,” Mr. Yoshihara said. “Kind of stepping out of their norm a little bit in terms of when they maybe hear someone in their friend group or around them say something that doesn’t quite feel right, or sound great. Just [saying] ‘hey, I don’t really like that’ or ‘I think that’s not respectful.’”

By doing this Mr. Yoshihara said, “it will just make the school more inclusive, and people of color will feel a lot more respected and safe.”