Iwamoto is always ready to lend a helping hand. What started as a dream to become a human rights lawyer has morphed into a career of service thanks to an impulsive decision: In 2008, she moved to Northeast Ohio for a one-year City Year Cleveland program working with inner-city students. Now the foundation relations coordinator for Providence House champions Cleveland's small-town feel, vibrant arts scene and unbreakable spirit.
Teaching Moments: Iwamoto's time at City Year helping children in the Cleveland Metropolitan School District improve their reading skills taught her a thing or two about life. "Growing up, I had always heard about students who were in high school and couldn't read. But it's so different hearing that compared to actually working with kids. It was such a wake-up call about how many challenges there really were."
Action Plan: So she spent another year with City Year, teaching kids and helping build playgrounds in inner-city neighborhoods. "That transformative experience, watching neighborhoods improve before your eyes, was an incentive for me to stay. I felt like I could be a part of helping the city change and turn itself around."
Fast Track: Iwamoto credits her career success with our city's small-town feel and the ease at which people are willing to get to know you. "I can't believe how fast I grew my professional network," she says. "I can't imagine starting over somewhere else and have that happen at the same speed."
Artistic Statement: Iwamoto and her husband purchase season tickets to Playhouse Square's Broadway Series, see the Cleveland Orchestra at least once a year and love living near the Cleveland Museum of Art. "There was a time when I was trying to make it to every new exhibit they have. I try to do that now, but it's a little more hectic."
Get Over It: She's really baffled by the whole East Side vs. West Side debate. "I really hate when that's the first thing people ask: 'Are you from the East Side or the West Side?' "
Millennials Misconception: Don't assume that all millennials have had the same life experiences. "I feel like my age, 29, was the last year that people played outside. I didn't play video games growing up. Everyone in my neighborhood was always outside playing. We didn't get cellphones until college."