Former CNN anchor Sachi Koto, who this year expanded her Who’s Who in Asian American Communities project from recognizing Georgia’s Asian American community leaders to Asian American leaders from 10 Southeastern states, has even bigger plans for next year.

With the support of the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, the Who’s Who in Asian American Communities project is going nationwide.

The White House initiative is based at the U.S. Commerce Department and aims to increase economic opportunities for and improve the quality of life of some 14 million Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders living in the U.S. and in the U.S.’ Pacific Island jurisdictions.

“Asian cultures often discourage individuals from blowing their own horns,” Ms. Koto told GlobalAtlanta in a video interview. “But we think that it is important for community leaders in the United States to serve as role models.”

Thirty-three Asian Americans were recognized from the Southeast at a ceremony held in July at the Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta, not including five members in a new category titled, “Rising Influentials.”

In an effort to inspire leadership values and an appreciation of the arts among up-and-coming professionals, the new category was opened for younger, less established Asian Americans.

This year’s honorees in this category were Gloria Enriquez, security manager, United Parcel Service Inc.; An Goh, financial services professional, New York Life Insurance Co.; Jane Li, president, ACL International Inc.; Brenda K. Tran, president and editor-in-chief, AutoPILOT magazine and Bobby Yang, a violinist.

Ms. Koto is a native Georgian born at Emory Crawford Long Hospital in Atlanta and a third generation Japanese-American, whose parents were detained in Wyoming’s Heart Mountain internment camp during World War II.

“My parents were the 33rd and 34th Japanese to move into Georgia,” she said, adding that her ethnic group was very much the minority while growing up in Atlanta during the 1950s and 1960s.

While attending Reinhardt College in Waleska, from which she graduated summa cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in communications, she modeled on the side.

Since she was over five feet, five inches tall and there were few other Asians here, whenever a modeling opportunity for an Asian came up, she said that she was able to seize it. “One day I would be an Indian, the next a Filipino,” she added.

Her modeling on behalf of a wine company eventually landed her a job as a reporter for WQXI radio station from 1974-75 and from there she joined WAGA-TV from 1975-77.

Before joining CNN in the late 1980s, she also worked in Tokyo for a decade as an anchor for JCTV (Japan Cable Television) and for Nippon Hoso Kyoku (NHK) Radio.

Ms. Koto had a variety of jobs at CNN, primarily based in the network’s headquarters in Atlanta. She launched her public relations and communications firm, Sachi Koto Communications Inc., in Woodstock in July 2005 after spending 16 years with CNN.

On August 4, she was one of eight people honored by the Southern Christian Leadership Conference at the first Coretta Scott King Heritage Award Celebration held downtown at the Marriott Marquis Hotel.

The Passing the Torch Award was created “to recognize a generation of women who exhibit vision, tenacity and strength in their given fields and are in the process of creating a legacy that will leave a lasting impact on all people.”

During the GlobalAtlanta interview, she said that she was particularly honored because the award was from a group outside of the Asian American communities where she is well known.

She also said that she already has begun to work on next year’s Who’s Who in Asian American Communities and would like to receive nominations for individuals from throughout the country who are at least 21 years old, have achieved success their profession, have made a significant contribution to an Asian American community and are officers or leaders of the community or an organization.

This year’s 33 honorees are:

Harsha V. Agadi, president and CEO of Church’s Chicken International; Anurag Agnihotri, founder, IIIrd Millenium Technologies Inc.; Mary Anne Alabanza Akers, associate professor at the School of Environmental Design at the University of Georgia; Satish Anand, president of project services, Primus Software Corp.; Jocelyn H. Bruce, professor and neuropathologist, University of Miami School of Medicine and Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami; Peter E. Chang, principal, PDK Investment Group LLC;

Charlene Fang, vice president and relationship manager, United Commercial Bank; Guanming Fang, attorney, Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice PLLC; Sunan Fang, senior researcher, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; Nancy Y. Foo, vice president and business development officer, Century Security Bank; Kumiko Kuretani Franklin, owner and operator of Japanese Saturday School; Sonya Elaine Gong, vice president of operations, southern zone, State Farm Insurance Co.; Garry Xuejun Guan, president, Asian American Media Group Inc.;

Sharon Siew Cheun Lim Harle, assistant vice president and faculty member, Mercer University; Sarah Jane Hawk, attorney, Alston & Bird LLP; Jane H. Hsiao, partner, Frost Group; Xiaobo Hu, professor and director of China program at Clemson University; John J. Lee, president, Business Resources USA; Henry B. Li, manager of operating and capital budgets, Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority; Fify Manan, president and owner of Formcase Inc.;

Zenaida Doria Mendoza, cultural director, Hiyas-min Philippine Cultural Society of Charleston; Juan M. Montero II, general and thoracic surgeon and assistant professor, Eastern Virginia Medical School; Edmund C. Moy, director, United States Mint; Hung Quoc Nguyen, president and CEO, National Congress of Vietnamese Americans; Kevin Young Sup Park, president, Kevin’s Fashion World Enterprise Inc.; Raj Razdan, research chemist, Centers for Disease Control; Maki Kuraoka Rheaume, physician, Nihon Clinic; Mary Jane Basilio-Rolen, executive assistant, Social Security Administration Regional Commissioner of the Atlanta Region;

Jane Gurley Smith, president, RecruitSource Inc.; Chiling Tong, associate director, Minority Business Development Agency, U.S. Department of Commerce; Yu-Tueng Tsai, CEO and president, Regitar U.S.A. Inc.; Norio “Nick” Tsubokawa, former president and CEO, YKK Corp. of America; Shih-Tza Wu, president and chairman, King of Fans Inc.

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