Giving-Tuesday---UPAC-headingThis 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!



June 2015
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.

Community of Contrasts Follow-up Email

Report shatters ‘model minority’ myth

Asian population includes many groups in need

By Gary Warth5:29 p.m.June 11, 2015

SAN DIEGO — A report that examines the Asian-American population in San Diego County shatters perceptions that all members of the ethnic group are successful in school and society.

“Often times, people think Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders are successful economically and socially, but when you look at the data through ethnic groups, you see that is not the case,” said Kristin Sakaguchi, a research analyst at Asian Americans Advancing Justice, Los Angeles.

“Many are struggling and among the poorest and have the lowest educational attainment,” she said.

Asian Americans Advancing Justice, Los Angeles has used data from the 2010 Census to do similar reports about Los Angeles and Orange counties. Sakaguchi was the primary researcher on the San Diego report released Thursday, which can be found here.

The data shows that the Asian-American population in San Diego County was 410,000 in 2010, representing a 38 percent increase in 10 years, making it the the fastest growing population in the county.

The Census also found the Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander population had grown 25 percent over the decade to reach 31,000. In contrast, the county’s total population grew 10 percent, and the white population decreased 3 percent.

Sakaguchi said Asian Americans have been the fastest growing population nationwide for about 20 years. Looking beyond the growth, the data give insight to the state of many of the ethnic groups that make up the Asian community.

“This report is significant in that we have numbers and percentages and able to identify what groups are suffering, whether in education or health or economic development,” said Margaret Iwanaga-Penrose, president and CEO of the Union of Pan Asian Communities in San Diego.

Businesses owned by Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have created more than 50,000 jobs in the county. But the report found that between 2007 and 2013, the growth in the number of unemployed Asian Americans was 95 percent and for Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islanders it was 103%. The growth in the number of unemployed whites during that period was 84 percent, and for the total population it was 89 percent.

The number of Asian Americans and the number of Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander living below the poverty line increased 56 percent and 23 percent, respectively.

“Our diverse communities are growing at top rates and making real contributions to San Diego, but many also need help,” said Stewart Kwoh, president and executive director of Advancing Justice, Los Angeles.

While it is true that an equal percent of Asian Americans and white freshmen were applied were admitted to UC San Diego — 41 percent of both groups, according to 2013 numbers — a closer look at the diverse ethnic groups within the Asian-American population shows a disparity.

Only 13 percent of Hmong students who applied were admitted to UCSD, for instance, while 27 percent of Cambodians, 29 percent of Samoans and 30 percent of Laotians were accepted.

Cambodian, Laotian and Vietnamese American also are among those least likely to have a high school diploma.

Sakaguchi and Iwanaga-Penrose said the report helps contract the “model minority” myth many people have of Asian Americans. They also said the report can be used by policy makers and advocacy groups to identity areas of need in the community.

The report also found the Guamanian or Chamorror population in San Diego is the largest in the United States. The Filipino population is the largest Asian population in the county and the third largest in the nation.

© Copyright 2015 The San Diego Union-Tribune. All rights reserved.

June 11, 2015

A Community of Contrasts:
Asian Americans, Native Hawaiian and
Pacific Islanders in San Diego County Report

SAN DIEGO – The Asian American population in San Diego County is the fastest growing racial group according to a new report released today by Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Los Angeles and the Union of Pan Asian Communities (UPAC). The report, “A Community of Contrasts: Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders in San Diego County,” also notes that Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders are experiencing dramatic growth in the number who are unemployed and poor.

According to the 2010 Census, San Diego County is home to 410,000 Asian Americans and 31,000 Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders (NHPI). One out of every seven residents countywide is Asian American or NHPI. Between 2000 and 2010, the Asian American population in San Diego County grew 38%, faster than any other racial group. The NHPI population grew 25% over the decade. In contrast, the county’s total population grew only 10% and the White population decreased 3% over the same period.

Record numbers of Asian Americans and NHPI in San Diego County are registering to vote and casting ballots. Nearly 90,000 Asian Americans were registered to vote countywide as of the 2012 General Election. While Asian Americans made up 6% of the county’s voters during that election, of those old enough to vote, they make up over half the margin of victory in several legislative districts, including State Assembly Districts 77 and 79, State Senate District 39, and Congressional District 52.

While Asian American– and Pacific Islander–owned businesses are making real contributions and have created over 50,000 jobs in San Diego County, growing numbers of Asian Americans and NHPI struggle to make ends meet. From 2007 to 2013, the number of unemployed Asian Americans grew 95% and the number of unemployed NHPI increased 103%. During the same period, the number of Asian Americans and NHPI living below the poverty line increased 56% and 23%, respectively.

“Our diverse communities are growing at top rates and making real contributions to San Diego, but many also need help,” said Stewart Kwoh, President and Executive Director of Advancing Justice – Los Angeles. “This growth deepens the urgency of our public policy concerns.”

The report finds that the success of some Asian Americans and NHPI in the education arena overshadows significant challenges faced by others. Data from the California Department of Education show that NHPI students are both less likely to graduate from high school and to have completed the required courses for college admission. Among adults, Cambodian, Laotian, and Vietnamese Americans are among those least likely to have a high school degree. Samoan and Laotian American adults are less likely than all racial groups countywide to have a college degree.

Asian Americans and NHPI are disproportionately impacted by disease, but many lack access to care and health insurance. Cancer is the leading cause of death among Asian Americans (there is a higher proportion of Asian American deaths due to cancer, compared to other racial groups). Heart disease is the leading cause of death among NHPI. NHPI have an age-adjusted death rate higher than all racial groups countywide. Approximately 50,000 Asian Americans and 4,300 NHPI in San Diego County are uninsured.

“Data in this report show tremendous social and economic diversity in San Diego’s Asian American and NHPI community,” said Kristin Sakaguchi, a research analyst at Advancing Justice – Los Angeles and the primary author of the report. “In contrast to the model minority stereotype, some have achieved success, while others are facing considerable challenges.”

The Community of Contrasts Report:   Community of Contrasts Report 6-1-15


March 16, 2015:
UPAC’s Problem Gambling and Bob Lewis, one of Problem Gambling’s first clients,  was recently featured in the Aging & Independence March Newsletter.

Aging & Independence Newsletter 3-15_Page_1

Aging & Independence Newsletter 3-15_Page_2

 February 25, 2015

ACE group shot at AT&TTHANK YOU att_new_logo.jpg
A special “Thank You” goes out to the AT&T Aspire Mentoring Academy  employees for providing kids from UPAC’s Children’s Mental Health, ACE program with a “Job Shadowing” experience in February!

21 participants spent an afternoon at the AT&T headquarters  learning about the various jobs and positions in the telecommunications company.   From engineers to cable layers, customer service representatives to administrative support, sales people and various other  positions, it takes a dedicated group of employees to make a business run effectively.

We are extremely grateful to AT&T for the time, organization, and most importantly, the sincere care and support  provided to our youth.

ACE & ATT- Server room
ACE-AT&T demonstration

Stress, depression and the holidays: Tips for coping

Stress and depression can ruin your holidays and hurt your health. Being realistic, planning ahead and seeking support can help ward off stress and depression.

The holiday season often brings unwelcome guests — stress and depression. And it’s no wonder. The holidays present a dizzying array of demands — parties, shopping, baking, cleaning and entertaining, to name just a few.

But with some practical tips, you can minimize the stress that accompanies the holidays. You may even end up enjoying the holidays more than you thought you would.

Tips to prevent holiday stress and depression

When stress is at its peak, it’s hard to stop and regroup. Try to prevent stress and depression in the first place, especially if the holidays have taken an emotional toll on you in the past.

  • Acknowledge your feelings. If someone close to you has recently died or you can’t be with loved ones, realize that it’s normal to feel sadness and grief. It’s OK to take time to cry or express your feelings. You can’t force yourself to be happy just because it’s the holiday season.
  • Reach out. If you feel lonely or isolated, seek out community, religious or other social events. They can offer support and companionship. Volunteering your time to help others also is a good way to lift your spirits and broaden your friendships.
  • Be realistic. The holidays don’t have to be perfect or just like last year. As families change and grow, traditions and rituals often change as well. Choose a few to hold on to, and be open to creating new ones. For example, if your adult children can’t come to your house, find new ways to celebrate together, such as sharing pictures, emails or videos.
  • Set aside differences. Try to accept family members and friends as they are, even if they don’t live up to all of your expectations. Set aside grievances until a more appropriate time for discussion. And be understanding if others get upset or distressed when something goes awry. Chances are they’re feeling the effects of holiday stress and depression, too.
  • Stick to a budget. Before you go gift and food shopping, decide how much money you can afford to spend. Then stick to your budget. Don’t try to buy happiness with an avalanche of gifts.

Try these alternatives:

  • Donate to a charity in someone’s name.
  • Give homemade gifts.
  • Start a family gift exchange.
  • Plan ahead. Set aside specific days for shopping, baking, visiting friends and other activities. Plan your menus and then make your shopping list. That’ll help prevent last-minute scrambling to buy forgotten ingredients. And make sure to line up help for party prep and cleanup.
  • Learn to say no. Saying yes when you should say no can leave you feeling resentful and overwhelmed. Friends and colleagues will understand if you can’t participate in every project or activity. If it’s not possible to say no when your boss asks you to work overtime, try to remove something else from your agenda to make up for the lost time.
  • Don’t abandon healthy habits. Don’t let the holidays become a free-for-all. Overindulgence only adds to your stress and guilt.Try these suggestions:
    • Have a healthy snack before holiday parties so that you don’t go overboard on sweets, cheese or drinks.
    • Get plenty of sleep.
    • Incorporate regular physical activity into each day.
  • Take a breather. Make some time for yourself. Spending just 15 minutes alone, without distractions, may refresh you enough to handle everything you need to do. Find something that reduces stress by clearing your mind, slowing your breathing and restoring inner calm.Some options may include:
    • Taking a walk at night and stargazing.
    • Listening to soothing music.
    • Getting a massage.
    • Reading a book.
  • Seek professional help if you need it. Despite your best efforts, you may find yourself feeling persistently sad or anxious, plagued by physical complaints, unable to sleep, irritable and hopeless, and unable to face routine chores. If these feelings last for a while, talk to your doctor or a mental health professional.

Tips courtesy of the Mayo Clinic