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Local Heroes

Gracia Molina Enriquez de Pick - Hispanic Heritage Honoree

Between 1998 and 2016, KPBS partnered with Union Bank to recognize heroes in San Diego's diverse communities.

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Cosmetologist Tessie Bonner Saves Lives Through Breast Cancer Prevention

Black History Month 2014 Honoree

Jan. 31, 2014
By Monica Medina

Tessie Bonner considers herself a "church lady," given that her religious beliefs are at the core of who she is and how she lives her life. But Bonner, whose friends and close associates tend to also think of her as "the little engine that could," seems to be so much more than any one label.

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Rose-Margaret Orrantia Finds Purpose in Helping American Indian Foster Youth

American Indian Heritage Month 2013 Honoree

Oct. 29, 2013
By Monica Medina

Rose-Margaret Orrantia has spent a lifetime working to help American Indian children in the foster care system. After all, helping children is where her heart has led her. And helping to place these children in American Indian homes has been her way of giving back to her community and ensuring its future.

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Kumeyaay Elder Jane Dumas Keeps Language & Plant Lore Alive

American Indian Heritage Month 2013 Honoree

Oct. 29, 2013
By Monica Medina

On a bright and clear weekend morning in early October, there’s a flutter of activity at San Diego’s Tecolote Nature Center as staff get ready for an annual family activity, “Baskets and Botany.” The one-day event, which has been held there since the mid-'90s, is a day for families to share the environmental and cultural connections of Tecolote Canyon.

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Linda Bounds on Being Boundless

Disability Awareness Month 2013 Honoree

Oct. 1, 2013
By Monica Medina

Linda Bounds is a petite, sprightly woman with a lot of heart and grit. No longer wanting to be defined by others, she began to pursue her passion, living life on her terms and doing what she loved most: art.

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Al Kovach Finds A New Way To Serve His Country

Disability Awareness Month 2013 Honoree

Oct. 1, 2013
By Monica Medina

Al Kovach, Jr., looks a lot like Steve McQueen. In fact, in his Navy days, he was known as Petty Officer McQueen, just because of his strong resemblance to the actor known as "The King of Cool."

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Fabiola Navarro, Local Hero & Human Rights Activist

Hispanic Heritage Month 2013 Honoree

Sept. 13, 2013
By Monica Medina

The world is filled with injustice. All you need do is pick up a newspaper or go online and you’ll find a litany of human rights violations—victims of torture and kidnappings, people being sent to prison camps by their own government, women suffering untold abuse at the hands of their husbands or fathers while authorities look the other way, and children being forced into labor and prostitution. Here in San Diego, Chilean-born Fabiola Navarro sees fighting such human rights violations as a life-long cause.

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Andrea Skorepa Advocates for San Ysidro

Hispanic Heritage Month 2013 Honoree

Sept. 13, 2013
By Monica Medina

Andrea Skorepa is a Hispanic Heritage Month Local Hero who lives and breathes San Ysidro – both as a passionate advocate, and as a life-long resident of the town by the border.

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Vinnie Pompei Creates Safe Haven for LGBT Children

LGBT Pride Month 2013 Honoree

June 6, 2013
By Monica Medina

Vincent “Vinnie” Pompei will never forget the first time he witnessed the bullying. He was a newly-hired teacher at a Los Angeles County middle school. It was recess, and when he heard the words one child shouted to another, it struck a chord deep inside, leaving him cold and shaking.

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LGBT Local Heroes Max Disposti and Carolyn Bolton Achieve Success Together

LGBT Pride Month 2013 Honoree

June 6, 2013
By Monica Medina

When it comes to collaboration, seems to me that the key to success is in finding balance. At least, that’s been the case for Max Disposti and Carolyn Bolton, who for the past five years have been working together effectively. And, the way they make it work is by building on each other’s strengths.

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Broadway Musicals: A Jewish Legacy Online Screening Tonight

May 22, 2013
By Monica Medina

As a kid from New York, you could say I grew up in the wings of the Broadway stage. After all, my mother took me to see many a Saturday matinee of Broadway’s best. By the time I was 12 I had seen my fill. “The Sound of Music,” starring Mary Martin, “My Fair Lady” with Julie Andrews, “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying” with Robert Morse, and “Fiddler on the Roof,” starring the incomparable Zero Mostel, to name just a few.

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Sophak Yem Stands Up For Human Rights

Asian Pacific American Heritage Month 2013 Honoree

May 15, 2013
By Monica Medina

There are little girls who dream of princesses, playing with friends, or discovering a new and exciting book. And, there is Sophak Yem. What she longed for were gooseberries, a bright green berry that grows wild in Cambodia and has a particularly tart taste. Gooseberries. How she loved them when served with a mixture of salt and chili mixture. For Yem, a 2013 Asian Pacific American Heritage Month Local Hero honoree, growing up in a Cambodian concentration camp, gooseberries represented one of the few joys in her young life.

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Elmer Bisarra Helps HIV Patients Heal

Asian Pacific American Heritage Month 2013 Honoree

May 15, 2013
By Monica Medina

Elmer Bisarra learned early on what was expected of him. As the son of a Filipino father and a Chinese Hawaiian mother, he knew that the man is supposed to be the provider for his family, and that women serve best as educators, healers and nurturers. He remembers how this belief was embedded in his culture, passed down to him by his parents.

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And, The 2013 One Book Selection Is…

May 14, 2013
By Monica Medina

The verdict is in. The new One Book, One San Diego selection has been chosen. Starting in October, this will be the book that the entire community will come together to read for one extraordinary purpose—to enrich our lives through reading, and discover new worlds while sharing a common experience.

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Local Hero Sy Brenner Advocates for Veterans

Jewish American Heritage Month 2013 Honoree

May 1, 2013
By Monica Medina

For years, Sy Brenner kept it bottled inside, blocking it out of his memory while moving on with his life. After all, the war was over, and he was no longer being held captive.

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Yale Strom, A Champion for Klezmer

Jewish Heritage Month 2013 Honoree

May 1, 2013
By Monica Medina

Listen to klezmer music and it will harken you back to another time. Rich with tradition, the haunting melodies are a testament to the Jewish people and all they’ve endured throughout the course of history. To me, klezmer has the capacity to reach into our hearts and stir us to feel its beauty and soul.