Ash Ketchum, of Pokemon fame, is roaming BYU campus complete with red baseball cap, black gloves, blue vest and a stuffed Pikachu under his arm. Most people have left their childhood behind, but one student is trying to revive his Pokemon-filled childhood and share the values he learned with others.
It’s not the actual Ash Ketchum, of course. Truthfully, it’s just Justin Nielson.
Nielson, 23, is a student studying accounting here at BYU. He has dragons on his seat covers, is starting a Pokemon club and is starting to do the things he wants to do, without regard for what others think of him.
“I have been going to express myself more not really worrying about what other people think,” Nielson said. “I have been getting more confident with myself.”
And confident he has become. Nielson is starting the annual Pokemon week and is hoping to get a Pokemon club here on campus. Nielson has also declared Feb. 1 “Pikachu Day,” with the Pokemon festivities continuing until Feb. 7. During this time, Nielson said everyone is encouraged to wear or have something on their person that relates to Pokemon.
Nielson said he enjoys Pokemon because it allows people to go back to their childhood and it teaches them good lessons.
“One, they (Pokemon) are cute, and two, they embody a lot of values that are kind of getting lost today: expressing yourself, friendship, thinking of others before yourself, giving your all instead of doing things half-heartedly,” he said.
Katelynn Reed, a friend of Nielson’s, is majoring in dance. When she heard about what Nielson is doing she wasn’t surprised.
“I think that it sounds like him ,” Reed said. “It sounds like he wants to be an individual and that is just how he is, he is just trying to mix things up on campus.”
David Mitchell, from Salt Lake City, is Nielson’s roommate and shares the passion for Pokemon. He believes the whole club is a good idea and will help people remember their childhood.
“It’s good to see someone who is adamant about something actually go and try and make that a part of the fabric of BYU,” Mitchell said.
Nathan Kruger is another roommate of Nielson’s but wasn’t aware of Pokemon week until its second day. Kruger does not share quite the same excitement about Pokemon but is pretty envious of one thing.
“It’s a nice way to get away with dressing up in a costume everyday,” Kruger said. “I am kind of jealous.”
Nielson has decided to be himself and wants others to do the same. He encourages everyone to participate and become a fan on Facebook by joining the Pokemon Fan Club at BYU. He also hopes to become the leader of the new Pokemon club.
“There are a lot of people who like it,” Nielson said. “They could go and trade cards with people or go and talk about their favorite TV episode, or just go to meet people with common interest. Who knows, people might start dating each other.”
Nielson had better be careful though — there are other Pokemon lovers. Erin Forste was in Nielson’s ward last year and is ready to battle.
“There is only room enough for one Ash Ketchum on this campus,” Forste said. “And I have my Ash Ketchem hat and I am not afraid to use it.”