Shun Kato (he/him) Class of ’21

Serving his community and being a leader has always come naturally to recent Chapman graduate Shun Kato (he/his). Kato (‘21) graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology with a minor in Health Sciences. As someone who aspires to become a Pediatric Cardiologist and devote his life to service, Kato knew that he needed to devote some time to give back to his community. In order to expand on his passion for service, Kato is taking part in the Shinnyo-en Fellowship for the duration of his gap year prior to applying to medical school. This program is a prestigious 10-month fellowship that allows individuals from any background to immerse themselves in a service-learning organization to implement the Shinnyo-en Foundation’s philosophy of peacebuilding through service. From his experience in the nonprofit world and genuine care for the people in his community, Kato decided to apply for the fellowship. He is now serving as Chapman University’s representative while working for Higher Ground Youth and Family Services, an after-school program for some of the most underserved and “at-risk” youth in Anaheim, California. 

Kato and student from Higher Ground Youth and Family Services

As a senior, Kato was a finalist for the Paul S. Delp Outstanding Service Award – awarded to an individual who was judged to have made the greatest contribution through voluntary service to the community at large – and was awarded the Outstanding Senior Award from the entire class of 2021. In addition, he has had the great privilege of serving as the Biochemistry and Molecular Biology department’s peer advisor, supplemental instructor for Organic Chemistry Lab, and president of the Nikkei (Japanese-American) Student Union. These experiences taught Kato the invaluable skills of listening and engaging with his community while responding effectively to their problems.

Kato and student extracting DNA from strawberries

With this newly acquired set of skills, Kato works at Higher Ground every day where he gains exposure to more significant problems in the community beyond his comfortable scope of science and medicine. At Higher Ground, 87% of the families that attend programming qualify for free meals, and 95% are at-risk of gang violence. Aside from being a leader and mentor to these students, Kato has utilized his passion for STEM and health to make an ever-lasting impact on the community at Higher Ground. He is developing a STEM-curriculum for the program alongside Professor Lauren Dudley (she/her), who brings a class of 10 Chapman students every Friday to engage the kids in fun science-related activities.

Professor Lauren Dudley – Chapman University Faculty

Professor Dudley reflects on her experience working with Kato, “Working with Shun at Higher Ground Youth & Family Services has been an absolute pleasure. His involvement at Higher Ground positively impacted the experience for me, my Chapman students, and the kids at Higher ground… As our time passed, I repeatedly relied on Shun to enhance the environment in the STEM lab at Higher Ground… Being a STEM instructor is more than just relaying the information. It means guiding kids with passion and enthusiasm to help them reach higher than they ever thought possible. Shun is successful at this every day.”

Outside of Chapman, Kato serves on the board of directors for two non-profit organizations – the Kyle J. Taylor Foundation and Heartshield Project. Taking this one step further, in the spring of 2021, Kato was able to establish the Be KYnd to Your Heart Foundation at Chapman University, a college branch of the Kyle J. Taylor Foundation created in honor of his childhood best friend, Kyle Taylor, who passed away from Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA). These organizations are devoted to educating and providing free services such as heart screenings and CPR/AED training to prevent unexpected deaths as a result of SCA.

Kato training the Parent Advisory Board at Higher Ground CPR/AED

As an American Heart Association certified CPR instructor, Kato has been able to teach the parents in the community some valuable life-saving skills. Kato explains, “I think the coolest part about this program is that the fellow can mold it into whatever they want it to be. Although I’m using my background in STEM and health to spearhead various projects, many fellows before me were from the humanities and made an impact in their own ways. I’m so grateful for this opportunity to work with Higher Ground and I highly encourage anybody looking to take a gap year to apply!” 

This is your chance to apply to be a Shinnyo Fellow to work with Higher Ground Youth and Family Services, and a faculty mentor to implement peacebuilding ideas. The Post-Undergraduate Shinnyo Fellowship Program provides funding for ten months, beginning with the Annual Shinnyo-en retreat in August 2022 and concluding in May 2023. Compensation is $37,000 with medical, dental, and vision benefits. Qualifications include a bachelor’s degree (only candidates with anticipated graduation dates of December 2021 or May 2022 are eligible to apply). This is a wonderful opportunity for people of all backgrounds and disciplines who have a passion for giving back to the community through meaningful service. The application is due by April 15 at 4 pm. For more information and application, click here or email


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