Sempai Interview | Joyce — Bali, 2016

Natalie Akers
Published in
4 min readDec 6, 2017


Joyce comes from the United States and was a sempai last summer at the Gakko camp in Bali. Our very own Jessica Angel interviewed her about her experience.

What have you been up to since September?

Joyce: I recently started working at an education non-profit called Year Up. Their goal is to bridge the opportunity divide between 6 millions young adults who are disconnected from seeable career pathways to the 12 millions jobs that require post-secondary education that would go unfulfilled in the next decade.Year Up’s mission is to empower low-income young adults to go from poverty to professional careers in a single year! We do this by having students go through a 5-month learning and development phase, where they learn technical skills (IT, cybersecurity, etc) and business communication skills. Then, they go through a 6- month internship with one of our corporate partners (e.g Facebook, Google, Salesforce, etc). Over the course of the year, the students also earn college credits. Over 85% of students either go to college or convert their internship positions into full-time roles upon graduating from Year Up.

Jess: Where are you located?

I work at their Bay Area chapter, which has two sites, one in Silicon Valley, one in San Francisco. I work at the San Francisco office. Across the two sites, there are about 100 employees.

Jess: Is there any relationship between your current job and Gakko? What do you think you learned the most at Gakko being a Sempai?

Joyce: Yes! The most salient relationship that at Year-up, no matter who you are, or what your functional role is, we each spend time “coaching” a group of three to five young adult or students that go through our program each cycle. Each cycle is six months and we meet at least 8 hours a week. This direct service component at Year Up is very much in tandem with Gakko’s implementation of “family time”. Both come down to building interpersonal relationships and supporting students or the kohai,. This is completely in the spirit of Gakko — I feel that this summer helped me refine those skills that I am now bringing to Year Up.

Bali Camp Field Day

Jess: We are about to open the Sempai application for next summer. In your opinion, what quality is the most needed to be a successful Sempai at Gakko camp?

Joyce: Hard to say, there are a lot of successful qualities. I think the main one is adaptability. There are going to be a lot of unexpected circumstances that are going to arise. I think that always comes with creating something from the ground up. Being flexible, adaptable and able to work with the other team members is really important to be successful in the Sempai role.

Our creation from Bali camp 2017 architecture workshop!

Jess: Do you want to share a special moment you had with a Kohai ?

Joyce: I’ll share two stories that came after the Gakko Bali camp. A couple months after Gakko, two of the Kohai, Yoshi and Hinano, messaged me. Yoshi told me that my “Privilege.” workshop had been very impactful and that he wanted to write about it in an essay competition. I was really happy to hear that and helped edit his essay. Similarly, Hinano wanted to write about the “Privilege.” workshop for a class assignment so she asked me for the questions that I used for an activity in the workshop. It’s fascinating to see the lasting impact of Gakko beyond the camp. To be able to play the role of a long-term Sempai, even after the camp is a special opportunity.

Jess: Would you recommend the program to other people ?

Joyce: Yes! For one, It is an interesting intellectual experience. One of the coolest parts of Gakko was the exposure to different topics that I had rarely thought about. For instance, after engaging with people who studied architecture, I now think more about how my space affects me in my work and my interactions with others. This a concrete example of the benefits of the interdisciplinary component of the Gakko camp. You know, there aren’t many people who can say that they got an opportunity like Gakko, an opportunity where they can work with a group of intellectually, curious, empathetic, thoughtful individuals to create a “magical” experience shared with high -schoolers. That’s pretty rare.



Natalie Akers
Editor for

Reading about agriculture, secondary ed, entrepreneurship in and around the rust belt, and snow. Writing about summer camp.