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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.

A Community of Contrasts; San Diego County Report

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

Dante Dauz, UPAC, ACE Program Shares Best Practices with Thailand

Dante Dauz, Program Manager for ACE Travels to Thailand Program News

This past July, 2014, Dante Dauz, from UPAC’s Children’s Mental Health, Alliance for Community Empowerment Program (ACE) traveled to Thailand at the request of Thailand’s Chief of Juvenile Observation and Research.  Dante and acclaimed southern California community leader, Tasha Williamson were asked to provide  a 4 day training to over 100 social workers, law enforcement representatives, local judges and various community organizations to share concepts and practices on how to break the cycle of juvenile crime and violence in the community.  The focal point was on utilizing a “Community Wrap” model that combines both family and community resource strength, and accountability to support the youth as an alternative to incarceration.

In Thailand, children as young as 10 years of age are imprisoned for various reasons with sentences of up to multiple years.  These incarcerated children serve out their sentences in extremely poor living conditions and upon serving their sentence, re-enter society without rehabilitation services.  The current Thailand Juvenile Justice system is extremely limited.

Dante’s recommendations included fostering relationships, rehabilitating with an open mind, and identifying the strengths in the youth, family, and community, and build upon these support systems to develop and encourage prosperity.  The best combination of treatment should include assessment and intervention, youth counseling, caregiver/parent coaching, crisis response, linking the family and youth to community support, and access to psychiatric support and medication.  The goals of the program are to address the youth’s mental health needs, diminish negative social behaviors, and to preserve the family.

Dante joined UPAC in 2009 and was instrumental in creating the ACE Program, a partnership of community organizations, Jackie Robinson Family YMCA, Power Mentor, Overcoming Gangs and Beyond and UPAC working together to address the effects of community violence, and to strengthen families and empower youth.  The ACE program promotes positive self-esteem, family respect, academic importance, community pride, leadership skills and gang prevention.

Formally involved in  delinquent behavior in his own youth, Dante overcame the pressure and challenges of San Diego’s street gangs and has devoted his adult life to working with at risk San Diego youth to seek alternative avenues in life.   He cares deeply about kids and is passionate about helping them create a positive future.

UPAC congratulates Dante and is proud of his accomplishments.  It was a great honor for him to contribute information to assist the Thailand Chief of Juvenile Observation with alternative actions to handle youth violence.

For more information on ACE, please contact Dante Dauz at 619-265-2772 or visit