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Asian American Pacific Islanders here hope to raise awareness with conference Saturday

Not all Asians are good at math, a misconception that can actually be detrimental.

“Asians are looked at as the model minority,” said Ross Iwamoto, 69, a Japanese-American living in Tucson. “Because of these myths, there are many who don’t get help.”

These and other myths will be dispelled at Saturday’s daylong seminar, the first Southern Arizona Asian American Pacific Islander Conference.

Chaired by Iwamoto and featuring keynote speaker and best-selling author Robert Kiyosaki, the event will run from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the Tucson Chinese Cultural Center, 1288 W. River Road.

Space is limited to 200; about 150 have already signed up. For registration information, visit www.panasiantucson.org. Cost is $50, or $10 for students.

In addition to myth-busting, the conference serves a bigger purpose.

“Above and beyond all else, we want to build a network,” Iwamoto said.

The network should include, but not be limited to, the more than 25,000 Pacific Islanders who live in Tucson, he said.

“We want to have the university involved, the community, various civic groups, organizations that promote diversity and also leaders in the community,” he said.

“One of the reasons we want a broad spectrum to come, especially groups that focus on diversity, is because Asian American Pacific Islanders are invisible,” he said. “We are not seen as who we really are.”

As an example, Iwamoto told of the Vietnamese student who said that his teacher expressed dismay when he said he needed help with numbers.

“Why do you need help with math?” the teacher asked.

Conference workshops will include Pacific Islander history, culture, the younger generation and the challenges of being of mixed Pacific Islander race.

Iwamoto’s daughter, 23-year-old Annette Iwamoto, has a Japanese-American father and a mother, Marianne Vivirito, 62, with Italian and Irish roots.

“We want the community to understand us, see us as who we really are,” he said. “We want to learn who we really are.”

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