Member Spotlight Series: JP Okuda from The Links @ Rising Star

Member Spotlight Series: JP Okuda from The Links @ Rising Star

Member Spotlight Series: JP Okuda from The Links @ Rising Star

Jumpei “JP” Okuda, PGA Golf Professional and Manager of The Links

provided by JP Okuda

We recently interviewed Jumpei “JP” Okuda, PGA Golf Professional and Manager of The Links @ Rising Star, where our 30th Anniversary Golf Outing will be held on July 23rd. Our fabulous relationship with JP Okuda for many years is one of the reasons we have returned to The Links year after year.

Where are you originally from, and how long have you been in the Greater Cincinnati area?

I was born and raised in Okinawa, Japan and moved to America at the age of 15.  I graduated high school in Birmingham, Alabam, and played two years on a full golf scholarship at Shelton State Community College (Tuscaloosa, Alabama).  Highlights during my amateur career include being a member of the Division II National Golf Championship Team in 1999.

What prompted you to come to the US?

Golf!   I fell in love with the game of golf from the day my dad took me to the driving range when I was 10 years old.   Long story short, my dad attended a golf clinic back in Okinawa, 30+ years ago, and really liked the instructor’s philosophy. He somehow found a way to have me attend HS in the US and take private lessons under this golf instructor, all while I was only 15 years old.  So, I said, “Why not?  Let’s do it!”

What was the journey to becoming a PGA Golf Professional like?  What was the hardest part?

I became a PGA Class A professional in 2012.  It was probably one of the hardest things and biggest challenge I have had to overcome in my life.  To be honest, the playing test was easiest for me.  I had played so many junior /college tournaments that passing the skills test was easy.  What was hard was the book/study /internship part of the program.  To become a PGA Class A professional, you have to pass 3 levels of exam, and each level gets harder and harder.  For each test, I had to travel to the PGA headquarters in Florida and stay for 5 days of seminars and testing.  If I failed, I would need to wait 3 months before signing up to do it all over again.
Also, I became a father just before taking the first level exam, and also had a 2nd child just weeks before the final level; it was very stressful. But I am living proof that if you work very hard, small dreams will come true one day.  But you really have to work hard…it is not easy.

What is the most interesting part of your job?  How about the most difficult? 

My favorite part of the job is everyday meeting resort guests from different parts of the region and sometimes different states. 
The most difficult is not being able to control the weather.  Weather is very stressful; 100% of the time my business depends on what happens outside.

Anne Golden, JP Okuda, and Staff

Photo by David Bailey

How did the pandemic impact the sport of golf? And how are things right now?

It was a very challenging few years, but working together has made us stronger, and business is coming back, no problem.  When there isn’t anything else you could do, there is always a round of golf available.  

What is special about The Links @ Rising Star? Why do golfers enjoy playing there? 

 The course is always in pretty good shape and the staff is always available to ensure you have a great experience during your round of golf.

What advice would you have for new golfers just starting out? 

Sign up for lessons with a local PGA Professional, and of course I am happy to help!
Also, let the family get involved.  The PGA Junior League is a fantastic program, especially for (beginner) kids.

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Member Spotlight Series: Great Parks of Hamilton County

Member Spotlight Series: Great Parks of Hamilton County

Member Spotlight Series: Great Parks of Hamilton County

June/July, 2021

Member Spotlight
Nature, Park, Sustainability

Provided by GPHC

In our Member Spotlight Series, we interviewed Great Parks of Hamilton County’s CEO Todd Palmeter. The mission of Great Parks of Hamilton County is to preserve and protect natural resources and provide outdoor recreation and education to enhance the quality of life for present and future generations. In addition, the Great Parks enrich the region by inspiring nature-based experiences, celebrating cultural heritage, and building strong and healthy communities through our dedicated staff, volunteers, and friends. We learned about their relationship within the Cincinnati community, events, and other opportunities in the interview.

Kids harvest vegetables from the garden at Highfield Discovery Garden in Glenwood Gardens.

Provided by GPHC

Tell us about the Great Parks of Hamilton County.

Great Parks of Hamilton County preserves and protects natural resources and provides outdoor recreation and education opportunities for all to enjoy. Your Great Parks include 21 beautiful parks and preserves spanning 17,742 acres across the county. Bike, hike, fish, paddle, walk, run, and play on over 78 miles of trails, several lakes and ponds, six golf courses, three campgrounds, two dog parks, and much, much more. So start your next adventure, plan an event, or begin making great memories by going to

Where are the Great Parks located?

Our parks and preserves have locations in several communities throughout Hamilton County and the City of Cincinnati. Here’s a map:

Is there a cost to visit a Great Park?

We ask visitors in cars to purchase a Motor Vehicle Permit, available online (, at welcome booths near several park entry points or any visitor centers. Visitors can also check out a pass from a Public Library of Cincinnati & Hamilton County. We offer several Free Entry Days each year when MVPs are not required. (

Which locations are your favorites, and why? 

The Highfield Discovery Garden at Glenwood Gardens, the mountain bike trail at Mitchell Memorial Forest, and Fernbank Park are unique. I was involved in the planning and designing of those amenities early in my career with Great Parks. However, I enjoy spending time in our most visited parks due to the variety of amenities – Miami Whitewater, Winton Woods, and Sharon Woods. All of our parks serve different purposes, whether you’re looking for a quiet walk, need an escape close to home, or want to take in some fantastic views.

Todd Palmeter, CEO, Great Parks of Hamilton County

Provided by GPHC

What do you love most about GPHC?

We are here for you, for everyone. Our spaces provide the much-needed relaxation and respite that we all need. Our areas include health and mental wellness opportunities along the 78 miles of trails, protected waterways, and natural areas.

Our spaces provide the much-needed relaxation and respite that we all need…

When did GPHC become a member of JASGC, and what prompted you to join?

(March 2021) To align with our master plan priorities of adding programs and events for diverse audiences, we need to better understand the culture of the various communities who visit our parks. Working with the JASGC and other local chambers will provide the partnerships and relationships we need to succeed.

What is the relationship between GPHC and the local international community?

Our parks are very active with users from various international communities through events, programs, and daily visits to the parks for walking and enjoying the outdoors. We will continue to strengthen our relationships with these communities. In addition, we will be very intentional about learning how to serve better everyone who uses the parks.

What would you especially want members of the local Japanese and Japanese-American communities to know about Great Parks?

As a leading conservation agency, Great Parks protects some of the most diverse habitats in the region and creates unique and memorable experiences for park guests. So when you visit, please think about how we can serve you better and drop us a line at

A mother and son kayak at Winton Woods

Provided by GPHC

Can individuals and groups host events at Great Parks? If so, how does that work?

Yes! We have shelter and event space rentals and catering at our parks, which guests use for business meetings, family celebrations, weddings, group events, and more! You can go to to make a reservation and to learn more about available spaces.

Are there any public events at Great Parks?

COVID-19 has been limiting in-person events at Great Parks, but they are starting to return. In addition, we offer nature programs for children and adults, virtual programs, horse riding lessons, golf lessons, fishing tournaments, day camps, and more. To see upcoming events, visit

Are there volunteer opportunities at GPHC?

Our volunteering events have also started coming back! We offer individual, community, and corporate volunteer opportunities. For additional information, please visit

How has COVID affected GPHC?

The biggest impact of COVID has been the significant increase in both visitation and trail use, and the trend continues in 2021. The community needs their parks, and we have been here for them during the pandemic and will be for generations to come. COVID has limited our ability for in-person programming and events. Still, it has also forced us to be more nimble, think creatively, and ultimately find ways to serve our guests better. We have ramped up virtual programming, social media, blog content, and other innovative ways to reach the residents of Hamilton County where they are.

What has been GPHC’s most significant accomplishments to date?

Great Parks is the largest landowner in Hamilton County and continually strives to protect local greenspace and riparian corridors. 83 percent of the 17,742 acres we manage is in its natural state. Currently, we are putting the finishing touches on the future of your Great Parks with our community-driven Master Plan. One of our top priorities is conservation:

  • Improving and adding natural areas
  • Expanding access to preserved spaces
  • Enhancing the sustainability of our parks and preserves

You can find out more about our Master Plan process at

A child explores near Buckeye Falls at Sharon Woods

Provided by GPHC

What makes working at GPHC most rewarding?

I love the fantastic team of professionals who I get to serve alongside every day to provide the best experiences for our guests. Our staff is passionate about our mission, vision, and core values. It always brightens my day when I engage with an excited colleague about what we’re doing here.

Follow Great Parks of Hamilton County on Social Media!

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Member Spotlight Series: International Language Plus

Member Spotlight Series: International Language Plus

Member Spotlight Series: International Language Plus

February, 2021

Member Spotlight
Education, ESL

Judson “Jay” Allgood, President and Owner of International Language Plus

Provided by ILP

In our Member Spotlight Series, we interviewed Judson “Jay” Allgood, president and new owner of International Language Plus. Since 1986, International Language Plus (ILP) has been teaching English as a Second Language (ESL), as well as many foreign languages, to thousands of students in the Cincinnati area. Their goal is to provide a comprehensive, top-quality language program to students that helps them reach their individual goals. In the interview, he gave us the background on International Language Plus, their experiences during COVID-19, and their plans with JASGC.

Tell me about yourself.

I have been the president and owner of International Language Plus just since May, 2020, but began my teaching career there in 1992. After teaching English as a Second Language for several years in Japan, on my return to Cincinnati I met Sandra Roberts, ILP’s founder, at a JASGC function in Mason.

I was born and raised in Cincinnati.  I attended Walnut Hills High School (Class of 1976) and received my bachelor’s degree from Miami University (Class of 1980).  I also have a Masters of Education (M. Ed) from Xavier University (Class of 2001).

My love for Japan came from the time I spent there. I lived in Tokyo and Kamakura from 1986-1992.  During that time, I was a “salaryman” and then became a teacher of English as a Second Language (ESL) in 1989.

I am married and have a daughter, Ginger, who also works at ILP as the Media Coordinator.  My hobbies include traveling, reading and watching sports on TV.


How long have you been a member of JASGC?

International Language Plus (ILP) has been a member for about 30 years. My own relationship with JASGC began in 1992. I had just returned to Cincinnati after six years in Japan. I don’t remember how, but I learned about a JASGC event at an art gallery in Mason. That’s when I met my future boss, Sandra Roberts, the founder of ILP. So, I have JASGC to thank for introducing me to ILP.


Why did you join JASGC?

From the beginning, most of ILP’s students have been Japanese. So, it was natural to join an organization with such close ties to the Japanese community in Greater Cincinnati.


What is the relationship between ILP and the local Japanese community?

Since 1986, ILP has specialized in working with Japanese companies, individuals, and families.  We are honored that we have longstanding relationships with so many people in the local Japanese community. In fact, most of our business comes from “word of mouth” advertising.

Students and Teachers Together, International Language Plus

Provided by ILP

 What is ILP all about?

First and foremost, we provide language lessons in English as a Second Language (ESL). We also offer lessons in eight foreign languages: Japanese, Spanish, French, Chinese, Portuguese, German, Korean, and Italian. Since almost all of our lessons are one-on-one, we customize them to fit each student’s needs and goals. In all of the lessons, our students learn the culture as well as the language.

In addition, ILP offers translations, interpreting, and cross-cultural training upon request.

…our lessons are one-on-one, customized to fit each student’s needs and goals.

What do you love most about your work?

First, I appreciate the opportunity to return some of the hospitality and kindness that I experienced during my six years living and working in Japan. I hope that my own experiences in Japan have helped me understand what our students are facing.

Second, I am blessed to work with really nice people – students and teachers – every day. This is the best job I have ever had. In fact, that is one of the main reasons I decided to buy ILP.


What classes do you offer currently?

We offer both virtual and in-person lessons. In the case of in-person lessons, they can be held either here at our school in Blue Ash, at the student’s company, or at their home. We are open 9:00 am-9:00 pm Monday-Friday and 9:00 am-3:00 pm on Saturdays, so we have the flexibility to accommodate our student’s schedules.

We also offer group lessons when a company requests it.

Caroline and Harley

Provided by ILP

Are you an official TOEIC testing site?

Yes, ILP has been an official TOEIC testing site since 1996. That means we can offer the TOEIC to our students upon request. We have the flexibility to administer the test to fit their schedules.


How do you sign up for classes?

It’s very simple. Please email either Dian Kemp ( or me (, or call us at (513) 791-9293. We will discuss options with you and set up a time for an assessment.


Who is the ideal student for ILP?

I wouldn’t say there’s an “ideal ILP student.” The good thing about our school is that the lessons are customized to fit each student’s needs. For example, we try very hard to find the right teacher for each student in order to help them reach their goals. I will say this – our most successful students are highly motivated to learn and are interested in finding out more about different cultures.


Describe a typical workday.

My day involves “wearing lots of different hats.” First, I’m in charge of the overall operation of the school. However, our Executive Director, Dian Kemp, is really the person who runs the day-to-day operations, as she has done the last 23 years. I am also involved with the planning, marketing and social media. However, my first love is teaching, which I do 15-20 hours per week.


What has been your biggest challenge so far?

I happened to acquire ILP during the shutdown last April. So, in addition to running my own business for the first time, I had the added complication of continuing the business during the pandemic.

Shoko and Jennifer

Provided by ILP

Is COVID affecting your business in a positive or negative way?

At first, it was negative because we had to go from almost 100% face-to-face lessons to 100% remote. Since our face-to-face lessons are normally two hours long and our remote lessons are only 1-1.5 hours, we saw a big decline in both hours taught and income. On the plus side, we have become much more skilled at teaching remotely, which has allowed us to teach students even after they have left the US. In addition, a lot of Americans have decided to study foreign languages, especially Japanese.


What has been your biggest accomplishment?

We have not only retained all of our teachers, we have also hired three new foreign language teachers in the last nine months. I also think that, because I am a teacher, I have made some changes which have benefited both our students and teachers.


How do you define success?

Let me answer that in two ways. As a teacher, I love when I see the “a-ha” moment on my student’s face. More generally, I appreciate the countless ways that our students have thanked us for a job well done.


Will we see you at any JASGC events this year?

I’m looking forward to the Reds outing (Japan America Community Day) on July 25th. I’m a huge Reds fan and I missed being able to go to games last year. I’m also looking forward to seeing Shogo Akiyama play in person.

Follow ILP on Social Media!

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