Nick’s Story

By next year, I’ll have turned 19, be done with senior year, and have a new FIRST competition theme to look forward to. I’ll have the same beard, will probably be wearing the same shirt, and will still be making fun of Servando’s voice. And I’ll probably still have my ink. Oh, unless someone skins me.

Today, I woke up, looked at the time, went back to bed, woke up again, played on my phone, got off my phone, laid in bed for half an hour, took a shower, started cleaning while listening to music—I’m really into cleanliness, started playing Dark Souls III, and then came here to DHDC to work on a personal project. I’m building a telegraph.

I remember when I was hanging out here, this lady asked me, “What are you doing here?” I told her that DHDC “was my home.” I was offended. I came to DHDC for a job and just never left. At DHDC, I enjoy teasing Servando, playing foosball, and cracking jokes. Although I think I should start learning how to be professional. I like working in the machine shop.

Outside of DHDC, I like to play video games, watch Friends, and play with my dog. But DHDC is life for me. Before, I would just go to school, play video games, go to bed, and be a piece of crap.

Looking at clips of ITNAV reminded me of DHDC. I get the same feel here. There are learning opportunities and a similar atmosphere.

When I first moved to Detroit, the city became a seed that grew inside me, and burrowed into my life at school and DHDC. I wasn’t doing so well in school at first. After coming to DHDC and improving myself due to the atmosphere, my grades grew.

Detroit will be a big part of my future in spite of what I go do or how I plan to be successful. I will always have a foot in the city. I’ve moved around a lot and, unlike other places, Detroit has become a home to me, despite having a bad reputation. It made my life better. I have a sentimental debt to the city and want to be able to come back in the future.

If I could tell the world one thing, I’d say that there’s always going to be hardship in everything you want to do and giving up is never going to make it easier. I came up with this motto in my Algebra classes. Everyone says that freshman year is important and to not mess it up; I messed up because I had no comprehension of math. After I came to DHDC, I received help from Erick and began to understand Algebra 2. Erick told me to not second-guess myself and that I was more capable than I thought I was. The next day, I went to class and looked at the board, looked at the teacher, and suddenly it all came together like pieces of a puzzle. After that, there was no more difficulty. Without Erick’s words, I would still have Fs in Algebra. Eric is one of our former mentors here at DHDC; “mentor” isn’t really credible enough, though. He’s more like an older brother. He’s definitely the most influential person in my life.

LJ’s Story

Right now, I’m a senior in high school. Which means that this is my last year before freedom, my last year before hardship. Well, it’s not like I haven’t faced hardships before, but this will be a different type of hardship. By next year, I’ll probably be somewhere in this same building, still building robots, still with DHDC.

This morning, I woke up, laid in bed for a while contemplating life, got up, got dressed, and came here to DHDC. I have work at 4 after this. I’ve been coming here since I was 3 or 4 years old. My grandmother runs this place, so I was born into DHDC. It’s kind of like my birthright. My grandmother, Angela Reyes, is the most influential person in my life.

I like it here because I like building robots and hanging out with my friends. Outside of DHDC, I like playing video games like Battlefield and The Witcher 3.

Looking at Ishinomaki reminds me of Delray in Detroit. This city is cancer; it’s not bad but it’s bad. You can’t get away from it, there’s nowhere else to go. Eventually you have to come back because you can’t leave this place. I want to better myself and then better this city.

Living in Detroit has been a very important factor in me growing up. I realized recently that being here, I’m a minority. Detroit is on a border and it’s industrial, so it has potential to become better. I don’t want it to be like this in the future; I want to be one of the people who make it better in the future.

If I could tell the world one thing about me that I’d want everyone to know, it would be that when I was seven, my mom left my dad so I didn’t get to be a child. I skipped all of my childhood and grew up before I had the chance to be a kid. I know that I can’t do anything about it anymore, so I must better myself now. They took a lot away from me, but I’m trying to fix that by myself now.

Leo’s Story

I was waiting for my sister in the parking lot of the high school, and they were passing out fliers for robotics. My mom asked my sister if she wanted to go and she did. Later my mom asked if I wanted to go, so I did. I wasn’t technically part of the team because I was in 8th grade, but I did help out. Our team is like a family. I really look up to my sister. She’s been accepted to different colleges, and she gets good grades all the time. She makes me want to get good grades. She’s the first in our family to go to college. My dad wasn’t able to finish school because his dad wanted him to do landscaping with him. So he wants us to do good in school. My sister wants to study aerospace engineering, but I think I want to go to culinary school and become a chef. I’m good at making breakfast, but I’m sort of like a beginner. My mom has been teaching me to make a few things. There’s this one dish, I can’t remember what they’re called. They’re like tortillas with tomato sauce and cheese over them…I think they’re called chilaquiles. In the future once I actually have a job, I want to be able to help my parents and take care of them.

Cristian’s Story

My mom works in a factory and my dad works in construction. They are heavily encouraging me to go to college and continue to get a higher education. I want to go to the University of Michigan to study aerospace engineering and I want to intern and work at General Motors so I can continue working with robotics. Aerospace Engineering would allow me to pursue something I like while still being able to work in a field with robotics. Having joined the R.E.C’in Crew Robotics Team my freshman year of high school, it’s something that I really enjoy doing and want to do for the rest of my life.

Alex’s Story

Soccer, secretary, student. Alex can’t be defined by one thing. At first glance, you couldn’t tell that she started playing soccer when she was a year old, her family cheering her on, or that she was able to play any position remarkably at fourteen. Her tryout was so good she played in the team’s match the next day. Her uncle’s love for soccer inspired Alex, and she’ll never give it up.

Another family influence in her life is her father. He owns his own lawn maintenance company, where Alex acts as secretary, mailing checks and keeping records. Responsibility is no stranger to her. Furthermore, she is finishing her final year of high school. Thanks to DHDC, Alex was able to imagine new possibilities of her future. Her hope is to major in computer science, a perfect fit for inquisitive, creative Alex.

Servando’s Story

My name is Servando Garza. My favorite colors are a really dark blue and a standard orange. I actually have a shirt that has both. I’m a sophomore at Cass Technical High School. Most of my friends were going to Western High School but of course I wanted to be different. The earliest memory I can think of is when I was about 3 feet tall, playing with some sheep with my younger brother. When I say younger, I mean by a few minutes. We’re twins. My family consists of him, and my parents. My parents are from Nuevo Leon which is in northern Mexico, close to the border. I’d say we’re a close family. We like watching sports that come on — mainly baseball — and joking around. I was born in the U.S., along with my younger brother, and I speak enough Spanish to communicate, but not enough to have really deep conversations. I actually took Spanish class recently, even though I’m a native-speaker, and it had a teacher who made me go around the class and make sure everyone was speaking in Spanish. I basically took over his job.

My earliest memory TODAY is getting up, eating breakfast, and doing some homework afterward — mainly chemistry. The chemistry teacher I have is really difficult. I get along with her occasionally, but it’s hard when the work she gives is really annoying. I think I’m more of a math/analytical person. In my future, I want to study computer science. Why? I like computers. I don’t know what exactly it is with computers but I just know it will deal with that. Computer hardware or software or whatever. I’m really good with them too and most of my time is spent on computers. A few times, I went on my friend’s computer and closed down all the tabs to annoy him and sometimes, if they have a Windows, I turn the home screen upside down. I did that to my mom too, and she got mad. She thought it was a virus. I think my favorite TV show is Naruto — I finished it recently, and now I’m watching Dragon Ball Z. I guess I’m into the mainstream anime. My brother’s more of the other kind of anime. I just like watching what I watched growing up as a kid. I was in Mexico before and I was watching Dragon Ball Z. Naruto came on afterward and since then .. it just stuck. I remember playing on my Playstation 2 (the Dragon Ball games) and I still play it to this day.

I come to DHDC almost every day — Monday through Thursday, and Saturdays. I got involved in DHDC through my mom. She told me about it and one day about a year ago, we came down, and I ended up joining the robotics team. My life revolves around DHDC now; robotics is everything I do. If I’m not doing robotics, I concentrate on my homework there and if I’m not doing homework, I’m playing games. Games are pretty big here, at least with Nick and I. We play foosball, which I am the BEST at. Occasionally air hockey (again, with Nick). I also played an 8 player ping pong game once. It started off with a few people, and then there was more and more people getting involved after watching for a while. That was fun, but I can admit, I’m not a big ping-pong person. The friends I have here are really fun. We joke a lot too, at least within our group. Cristian’s eyebrows are a HUGE example. Outside of DHDC, I mainly listen to music, and play racing and shooting video games. My favorite song right now is Cinderella Song by Eminem. I’m not so into the mainstream rap and hip hop. Lil Yachty and Lil Uzi aren’t my thing. I can say with DHDC and school, I ended up having two groups of friends. I see both groups of friends the same amount of time and I’ve gotten close to both my DHDC group and school friends. I learned to balance it all.

Hayase’s Story

My earliest memory is playing games, because I’m always playing games.  I play FPS games, Call of Duty, and Rainbow Six.  I first heard about ITNAV when the members came to my school to teach a programming class.

I don’t want to go to college after I graduate, I want to work at the electric utility company. I want to try going somewhere outside of Ishinomaki if possible, so I can start a career. There are more opportunities elsewhere and I want to travel abroad.

I think every person in this city is very bright. I get a feeling of livelihood and strength from these people. After the tsunami, I was able to see this entire town come together and participate in the rebuilding. Before that, I wasn’t able to speak with people all too well. The aftermath of the disaster offered me a way to reach out and converse with the people around me more. I like that this town is just the right size. It’s peaceful and not too big. While I can still be a part of many things, I can still be close to all the people around me.

The most important people in my life are my family members. My parents used to work for a car company before the disaster, but now my dad manufactures electrical boards for cellphones. I have two younger brothers who currently live in another city. I also have two dogs.

Similar to what one of the DHDC students said, I think the idea of never giving up is one I want to convey to the world. The fact that we didn’t give up even after such a severe disaster is the reason we’re here today. That’s why I consider this message to be so close to my heart.

Haraka, Hina, and Yuna’s Stories


My name is Haraka. I’m 16 years old and attend West Ishinomaki High School. My family consists of my mother, father, and little sister. My favorite food to eat is salmon, and I like reading comics, listening to music, and playing table tennis. In school, my favorite subjects are English and history.

When I want to grow up, I want to be a nurse. I have an illness where my body is not able grow tall. A lot of people in the duration of my life have helped me because of this, and I want to do my part in giving back by being a nurse. To be a nurse, I want to stay in Ishinomaki and go to a vocational school here.

Another reason I would like to stay is because I think the food in Ishinomaki is delicious, and I love the nature surrounding and engulfed in the city. I am interested in a lot of the events that happen in Ishinomaki as well — mainly the summer festivals that are geared towards reintroducing vitality. People are invited from overseas to these festivals for brainstorming and an exchange of ideas. People seek to take lessons from overseas to incorporate into the festivals they do here. I like to study and observe the effects of those festivals on the well being of Ishinomaki, my city.



My name is Hina. I’m 16 years old and a second-year student at West Ishinomaki High School. I’m a member of the English Appreciation Club. I’ve lived in Ishinomaki my entire life. I love the great food here and how the city is surrounded by the ocean and mountains.

My normal day consists of studying and watching TV. I like watching American dramas like NCIS and Bridget Jones’ Diary. I joined the English Appreciation Club because I want to study English in New York one day. After graduating high school, I want to go attend college in Tokyo and study law. When I’m older, I want to join the police force. I like how there are many opportunities to experience in Tokyo.

I was 11 years old at the time of the disaster. I was in elementary school and we were all cleaning the classroom when the earthquake occurred. I was scared and didn’t know what was going on so I started crying. I went home and met up with my mother and little sister. The power lines had been damaged and there was a blackout. I didn’t realize what was going on until one of my neighbors started shouting, “There’s a tsunami!” After the tsunami was over, all I could see around my house was water. It looked like a lake in the middle of the neighborhood. The entire time, I felt surprised and caught off guard by the whole event. The next morning, my grandparents came home and I felt an immense sense of relief. We’d been unable to contact them before then.

The rebuilding process wasn’t as hard for us as some of the other people in my neighborhood. The tsunami didn’t wash away my house, so I’m actually still living in the same house as I was before the disaster. My mom used to be a housewife before, but after the earthquake, she became an administrator at a construction company.


My name is Yuna, and I am sixteen years old. I am in the English Appreciation Club at school because I want to learn to speak English well. In school, my favorite subject is music. I played the trumpet in junior high. After high school I plan on being a beautician; it seems really fun. 

My hobbies are listening to music, watching TV, and watching movies. I listen to both English music and Japanese music. My favorite music artist is Arashi and my favorite TV show is Variety. I like Disney movies like Beauty and the Beast, but I have not seen the new version yet. I also like Spiderman.

I have lived in Ishinomaki my whole life. My favorite thing about Ishinomaki is that it’s close to the sea. I live with my mom and dad in a house by the ocean. Although I like Ishinomaki, I want to go to Tokyo. I have never been there, but I am taken with the idea of a big city. Eventually I want to travel to the U.S., too.

Hulk’s Story

My real name is Kai Yoshida, but my nickname here at ITNAV is Hulk. I’m currently a 3rd year student at Ishinomaki University. I’m interning here at ITNAV. I first heard about ITNAV from a seminar at my university. My teacher, Fish, suggested I come work here. My main job is to develop android apps. So far I’ve created a memo application and an android engineer sample application. After graduating from university, I want to work as an android app engineer or simply a programmer, possibly in Tokyo, America, or China.

I think Ishinomaki is a really peaceful town; it’s very relaxing. And there’s really good food here! I’m from a smaller rural town in Miyagi that’s about 30 minutes away from Ishinomaki by train. I commute from home to go to school here and work at ITNAV.

I was a 2nd year junior high school student when the earthquake struck the area. I was preparing for my graduation ceremony at the time it occurred and was unable to go home for a while. However, since I live more inland, I didn’t know of the true situation of the cities near the sea. It was when I first came to Ishinomaki that I realized just how big of an impact the disaster had on communities along the coast.

I want to become one of the 1000 engineers that ITNAV produces and mentors. I want to be able to tell the world that even though Ishinomaki doesn’t have a great image because of the disaster, it’s still a wonderful place and people should definitely come and visit.

Ryuta’s Story

Ryuta has a memory of running around playing when he was two years old. It is rare for a person to remember something from such a young age, but this experience really stuck with him. His head smacked through a glass window while he ran. Shards of glass stuck out of his head. He’ll never forget this.

Even now that he is sixteen years old, he remains adventurous and determined. He sees himself as a video game programmer after he finishes high school. His goal is to make a game similar to Dragon Quest, his favorite game. Even now he is working hard to achieve his dream. Aside from gaining experience at ITNAV, he is the president of the programming club as his school. Sometimes he recruits ITNAV to come in and teach aspects of programming.  

Ryuta appreciates the combination of the city and nature in Ishinomaki. Aside from programming, he has a passion for fishing. But, ironically, he doesn’t like fish at all. He prefers chocolate; anything he buys at the convenience store has chocolate in some form.

For such a young age, he has insightful advice for anyone interested in programming. He says although programming has an image of being inaccessible, anyone should give it a shot and play around because it is not as difficult as its reputation suggests. Another piece of wisdom he had was that programming requires a lot of creativity. He believes it is the most important skill for the field. If you have any trace of a creative idea, he advises you don’t give up on it. Think about the idea in different ways, and it may turn into something.