Press Release: Celebrating API Heroes


Celebrating Asian / Pacific Islander Heroes in Our Community
NBC Bay Area to Host Asian Pacific American Heritage Month Honoree Luncheon

SAN JOSE, Calif. (May 16, 2017) — Student winners from the Asian Pacific Fund’s 22nd annual Growing Up Asian in America contest and honorees of Asian Americans for Community Involvement (AACI) will participate in NBC Bay Area’s annual Asian Pacific American Heritage Month luncheon on Thursday, May 18 at 11:30am. The luncheon will honor local heroes and winners of this year’s contest.

The Growing Up Asian in America program celebrates Asian Pacific American Heritage Month by giving voice to the varied experiences of Asian and Pacific Islander (API) youth throughout the Bay Area, and encouraging this next generation of leaders to take pride in their heritage through creative self-expression.

This year’s theme, “Letter to the Senator,” brought in more than 500 entries from K-12th grade Bay Area students of all backgrounds and ethnicities. Submissions included art, essay, poetry and videos that highlighted important issues that Senator Kamala Harris, the first Indian American and second African American woman elected to the U.S. Senate, should address.

Select youth from the group of 50 winners including Kiana Aguilar, Charlene Tonai Din, Matthew Lee, Lilly Loghmani, Marvin Shang, Avighna Suresh and Keira Zhang, will participate in this NBC Bay Area luncheon.

“Now more than ever, it’s important to engage students to examine and bring to light the issues that affect them and their communities,” said Audrey Yamamoto, President & Executive Director of the Asian Pacific Fund. “We are honored to provide an avenue for our youth—the leaders of tomorrow—to share their points of view and celebrate their heritage.”

“The real heroes are these youth,” said NBC Bay Area’s Lance Lew. “NBC Bay Area is able to provide a platform for these young artists to share the stories of their families and communities, stories that need to be told and celebrated.”

Also to be honored are AACI’s four Asian Pacific American Community Heroes. These honorees represent the impact and dedication that diverse API communities bring to the Bay Area local community.

Among these honorees are: a rising Filipina community leader engaging voters and empowering other Filipina leaders, a Deputy District Attorney who invests into the next generation of API prosecutors and judges, a community health center CEO with a passion for social justice, and an advocate leading the charge against human trafficking in the Bay Area.

“AACI is honored to be able to support and work with these leaders in our community.  From fighting against the trafficking of people, to advocating for health care access, to building stronger communities, and mobilizing a community to become civically engaged, these individuals represent the very best of our community and inspire us each day,” said AACI President and CEO, Sarita Kohli.

Angelica Cortez is the Founder of the volunteer-led LEAD Filipino program. She is a rising Filipina community leader that has mobilized the Filipino community to become engaged in civic leadership, social justice and public service, while still promoting and sharing Filipino culture. Her recent efforts have included hosting a voter outreach and engagement called Iboto Pilipino (Vote Filipino) and a well-attended Fly Pinay Summit that aimed to empower Filipinas from different work sectors.

Johnny Gogo is a Deputy District Attorney for Santa Clara County. Committed to help others and improve the community, he works as a community prosecutor by working with parents, children, and the community in order to keep people out of the courts.  As the President of the Northern California Region of the National Asian Pacific Islander Prosecutors Association he invests into the next generation of API prosecutors and judges. Johnny can be constantly seen around the community working to make our community stronger and healthier.

Sherry Hirota is the Chief Executive Officer for Asian Health Services in Oakland, California. She is a fierce advocate for the health needs of Asian Americans and for grassroots efforts to ensure health care for all. While running a non-profit health clinic that serves anyone regardless of their ability to pay, under her leadership they have successfully championed the health and well-being of nail salon workers, the disaggregation of Asian American demographic data, and the rights of cosmetology workers. From grassroots organizer to CEO, Sherry remains a steadfast leader in the fight to ensure health care access for all.

Brian Wo is the Co-Founder of the Bay Area Anti-Trafficking Coalition. He was part of the coalition that trained countless airline and airport employees, restaurant and hotel workers, and other individuals to spot and report human trafficking during Super Bowl 50. From producing the largest anti-trafficking summit at Levi Stadium last year to conducting educational awareness workshops to churches, schools, and communities, Brian is committed to ensuring that human trafficking does not occur in our backyard. 

The NBC Bay Area Asian Pacific American Heritage Month luncheon will take place at NBC Bay Area studios, 2450 North First Street, San Jose, CA 94107. Additionally, a mural painted during Comcast Cares Day on April 22 will be on display at the luncheon. The mural was an educational project to inform students about APA Heritage Month and the contributions of the APA community.

About Asian Americans for Community Involvement (AACI)
AACI is Santa Clara County’s largest community based organization focused on Asian Americans.  For over 40 years, our services have provided critical support to grow to provide culturally accessible services, not only for Asian Americans but for all.

About Asian Pacific Fund (APF)

The Asian Pacific Fund is a San Francisco-based community foundation dedicated to improving the lives of Asian and Pacific Islander communities in the Bay Area. The Fund mobilizes philanthropic giving from donors, supports organizations that serve the most vulnerable and raises awareness about pressing community needs.



Edwin Tan

Pei-Un Yee