All posts by Jennifer Leedom

NEW: UPAC Rocks Facebook Page

Below message by:  Sandra Knickerbocker

“UPAC Rocks began with the sole purpose of spreading joy, kindness, and a sense of community through creativity and was inspired by the Santee Rocks Facebook Group.  The idea is to decorate rocks with paint, chalk, or markers and to hide them in various locations to brighten someone’s day. For longevity, rocks should be covered with a sealer.  If you find a painted rock that you can’t bear to part with, please keep it, but replace it with one of your own creations.  This is a kindness project, and kindness has no boundaries!

Group Rules:
1. Please feel free to take your rock to another town, state or country to hide and share.
2. Do not decorate rocks with glue-on accessories. These will eventually fall off and become litter and a hazard to wildlife.
3. Be sensitive to the environment and do not remove rocks from or hunt in protected habitats, and please follow all rules of the parks and trails you visit.
4. Avoid hiding in large chain stores, and be respectful of small businesses and private property.
5. Don’t hide in grass where lawn mowers roam or in other hazardous locations.
6. Keep all posts kind, and free of rants and drama, political opinions, foul language, or business advertising and all pictures family-friendly. Members who violate these standards will be deleted.
7. Above all, use common sense and remember our mission. We want to spread happiness in our community, and in no way wish to be a nuisance, distraction, or hazard.

“Rocks reflect the opinions and attitudes of the individual artists, and not those of the administration or UPAC organization.  UPAC cannot be held responsible for the actions of individual group members.”

This is meant to be fun for all ages and abilities, so get creative and get outside!  Thank you for being such an important part of this community. Peace, love and joy!

SDG&E: Energy Message & Tips for June

Make this a cool summer with a new smart thermostat

Purchase an approved smart thermostat and enroll in SDG&E’s Reduce Your UseSM Rewards – and you’ll receive a $50 Visa® gift card. Plus, you can earn another $25 for each summer you participate in the Rewards program. Visit to find out if you qualify.

You can find and purchase a selection of eligible smart thermostats by visiting the SDG&E Marketplace. With this online tool, customers can compare prices, estimated energy savings, product features and popularity ratings across thousands of home appliances and electronics. Some of the products qualify for online rebates, and SDG&E Marketplace makes the rebate application process easier than ever. For more information, visit

Trying to beat the heat?

Cool Zones are places where senior citizens and people with special needs can comfortably escape mid-day summer heat and reduce their air-conditioning use, which helps save on energy costs.

Cool Zones are established by the County of San Diego Aging and Independence Services (AIS) and this year are open to the public from May 4 to October 31, 2017. There are currently more than 100 Cool Zones that provide service to some of the hottest areas in the San Diego region. They are located in senior centers and other public buildings.

Find your nearest Cool Zone at or call the County of San Diego at 800.510.2020 and press 6.

Comfort you can count on

Is your heating and A/C system getting quality care? Pay only $50 to receive a System Assessment and Improvement ($300 value) visit. You have two options for payment. When the contractor comes to your home, you can either:

  • Pay $50 to the contractor and they will receive $250 SDG&E rebate check
  • Pay $300 to the contractor and you will be sent the $250 SDG&E rebate check

A qualifying contractor will thoroughly inspect your system and equipment, change the air filter, and clean the condenser coil. You will receive a detailed report showing any additional maintenance or repairs you may need – along with more rebates to offset the costs. Find out if you qualify by calling A/C Quality Care at 800.289.2440 or visiting

-Message from SDG&E, Residential Energy in June

AT&T Career Opportunity for Bilingual Speakers

WHEN:  Thursday, June 8th from 1:00pm – 2:00pm MST
AT&T is hosting a Virtual Retail Information Career Session for the Southwest market.  We have part-time Retail careers available.  Bilingual English/Mandarin and English/Spanish speakers a plus.  Please help us by distributing this email to members, students, other community organizations – anyone you think would be interested.  We graciously thank you for your support!

Join us for our Southwest AT&T Retail Virtual Information Session

Find out what it’s like to work in an industry that’s not about to slow down- with a company that has a legacy of successful innovation and be considered for one of our limited Retail Sales Career Opportunities. AT&T offers paid training, competitive wages, benefits, 401k, paid vacation, employee discounts, tuition reimbursement, and so much more!

You MUST first apply online in order to participate in the event. Please go to: (

Register at (

Best of luck! 

UPAC Youth SeaWorld SD Trip

August, 2016:  UPAC Youth Group Learns About Animal Care and Rescue at SeaWorld San Diego

A group of 30 at-risk adolescents and their families from San Diego visited SeaWorld San Diego on Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2016 for a special behind-the-scenes look at how animal care specialists and trainers care for the park’s animal ambassadors.

The visit was coordinated with the Union of Pan Asian Communities (UPAC) through their Alliance for Community Empowerment (ACE) Program. The organization has a very unique thread to SeaWorld: Keith Yip, the park’s curator of mammals, is the son of Beverly Yip, the founding executive director of UPAC.


Keith Yip, SeaWorld San Diego’s curator of mammals, addresses a group of 30 youth and their families from UPAC.

“When Mom started the organization more than 40 years ago, she was committed to providing San Diego’s Asian communities opportunities to grow and learn,” said Yip, who’s been with the park for more than 30 years. “I cannot be more ecstatic to have these incredible youth here at SeaWorld and see firsthand that if working with animals or pursuing a career in marine biology is something they’re interested in, they can achieve it.”


Animal care specialist Hannah Webster Heublein shares animal information with UPAC youth.


Rescue Team member Jorge Villa shows debris found on rescued animals as a result of human activity.

The group went on a behind-the-scenes tour of the park’s Animal Care area where they fed and interacted with bottlenose dolphins, and learned more about SeaWorld’s Rescue Program. They also watched the educational presentation, Killer Whales: Up Close and the Dolphin Days show. Killer whale and dolphin trainers took the time to chat with the group to provide insight on animal training.

“For almost all our youth, this was their very first time to visit SeaWorld,” said Dante Dauz, ACE’s program supervisor. “We are very proud and honored to work with the youth and families we serve, and they are all remarkable in their resiliency and their dedication to overcome very difficult challenges they face every day.”

“We are always excited to offer them events like this that can help make their day a little brighter,” he added.

Giving Tuesday, December 1, 2015


This year, on Tuesday, December 1, 2015, we are taking part in a campaign that we hope will make history. We are celebrating a day dedicated to giving where charities, families and businesses will all come together for ‪#‎GivingTuesday‬.
As the festive holiday season soon gets underway, we want to share the simple idea behind #GivingTuesday is to encourage people and businesses to help out a good cause. Whether it’s making a donation, volunteering your time or just spreading the word, #GivingTuesday is a call to action for everyone who wants to give something back.
We are planning to be part of this celebrations and we need your help to spread the word about why giving back to UPAC makes a difference.
Mark your calendars!


At-Risk Teens Find a Place at School to Be Themselves

At-Risk Teens Find A Place at School to Be Themselves
Voice of San Diego – Partners Voices

Not too long ago, Vietnamese-American student Tien Tran sat with a couple friends during lunchtime at Challenger Middle School when he noticed a man walking around with sunglasses on top of his head, a large backpack and a school binder. The man walked up to Tien asked about the cast on his leg: “What happened to your ankle?” Tien said he broke it while skateboarding.

“Oh geez, I know a few professional skateboarders who have hurt themselves too but as soon as their injury has healed, they are right back out there,” the man said sympathetically, creating an instant bond. “My name is Vinh, by the way.”

Fourteen-year old Tien introduced himself and soon learned that the man, Vinh Tran, works with an after-school youth program held every week at the school campus through the Union of Pan Asian Communities (UPAC), nonprofit providing social services to Asians, Pacific Islanders and other ethnic communities in San Diego. Vinh invited him to join the group the following week to check it out.

Tien decided to attend one of the sessions and found out that he was not alone with some of the challenges and issues he had going on in his personal life. By listening to some of the other kids’ issues and challenges along with Vinh’s advice and recommendations, it helped him sort out a lot of his own social and family problems. He decided to join the group on a regular basis and has become one of many local teens who’ve gained confidence thanks to the UPAC Youth Mentorship Program.

Here’s how it’s improved the lives of local teens:

It prevents gang and substance abuse

In 2009, the Department of Justice noticed an increase in the amount of Asian Americans involved in gangs and substance abuse in the San Diego region. The department decided to help lower the numbers by giving a federal grant to the Union of Pan Asian Communities where the money would be used to create a youth mentorship after-school program to decrease the statistics.

It targets schools in San Diego with high Asian American populations

In 2009, when the pilot of Youth Mentorship Program launched, it focused its efforts on four San Diego communities with high Asian American populations: Mira Mesa, City Heights, Paradise Hills and Linda Vista.

“Our strategy was to work with the school district and be directly on school campuses when kids got out for the day,” said James Diokno, who oversees the youth programs at UPAC.

Staff and administrators recommend students to the UPAC program who are at risk of being in a gang, currently in a gang, and/or have family or school problems. Its door is also open to students affected by peer pressure, drugs, violence, and bullying. The organization has worked with these eight middle and high schools:
• Mira Mesa High School
• Challenger Middle School
• Montgomery Middle School
• Kearny High School
• Hoover High School
• Monroe Clark Middle School
• Bell Middle School
• Morse High School

Today, the program lives on in Mira Mesa and Paradise Hills. These areas were selected because of their high Asian-American populations. In addition to these areas having high Asian American youth populations, these areas also lack culturally-competent services for those youth in those communities. With more funding, the organization hopes to return to all the schools. Here are some of the schools with the program currently:

Photo courtesy of Union of Pan Asian Communities.

The mentors are relatable and experienced

Mentors come from similar backgrounds as students in the program, helping them to be relatable and easier to open up to. Mentors understand the pressure of having to balance two cultures at a time in school, a struggle encountered by many of the students who come from refugee or immigrant families. Vinh, for example, is the child of parents who came to the United States during the Vietnam War as refugees.

Growing up, Vinh felt a lot of pressure to get good grades and take care of his family. It was hard for him to balance the customs of the culture he grew up in and the customs of the culture his American peers in school practiced. He wanted to fit in with both, and the stress contributed to experimenting with substances and hanging out with the wrong people in high school. He got into trouble, and that’s how he ended up receiving counseling services from UPAC.

“There was a good sense of judgement and understanding because they knew the culture,” Vinh Tran said. “When anyone talked about social services for Asian Americans, they talk about Union of Pan Asian Communities.”

Students learn coping mechanisms like how to control their negative feelings and channeling it to their strengths like sports or art. In his sessions with the students, Vinh teaches them better ways to communicate by being a good listener first, controlling their reactions, and sharing their points of view.

*Note: Union of Pan Asian helps all students, no matter their ethnicity.

It offers a place for teens to talk openly, free of judgment

Students meet once a week for a couple of hours after school for the youth mentorship program. With 13-15 students, the sessions feel small and intimate. They get the chance to build one-on-one relationships with their mentors. Students can talk about anything they’d like at these sessions, the topics range from mental health, racism, stereotypes, and LGBT and gender issues.

Diokno remembers growing up in Washington D.C. dealing with racism and substance abuse just like the students currently in the mentorship program.

“I could have saved myself a lot of the heartache that I went through if there had been a group like UPAC to be involved with. We pose a lot of difficult questions and situations to the kids and then discuss it openly and then provide the guidance on how to handle it,” Diokno said.

The program makes students feel like they have somewhere to build strong relationships and receive support.

“Vinh was always there for me, and I never felt the love I was getting from him from anybody else,” said Tien Tran, the former student.

Tien feels the support he received from Vinh made him confident enough to make changes to his lifestyle and live the life he dreamed of.

It raises community leaders

The youth mentorship program teaches its students to take pride in themselves and their communities.

Some of Tien’s most favorite memories from the youth mentorship program were cleaning up the beaches and volunteering in the city. He liked volunteering because it gave him a chance to meet other students. Today, 20-year-old Tien serves his community as the police cadet captain, a top rank among cop trainees with the San Diego Police Department. He even received the Volunteer of the Year award as police cadet captain.

“You have to realize, I would not be here today … if it was not for Vinh’s countless hours of mentorship and guidance,” Tien said.

This year, Tien will graduate with degrees in liberal arts and criminal justice. He plans on becoming a police officer at the SDPD and wants to help the younger generations like Vinh helped him.