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Stories by Monica Medina

LGBT Pride Month Local Hero Terry Cunningham Dedicates Life to Figh...

LGBT Pride Month Local Hero Terry Cunningham Dedicates Life to Fighting AIDS

LGBT Pride Month 2015 Honoree

June 9
By Monica Medina

As Cunningham recalls the early days of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, and the 30 years he dedicated to combating it, the experience deeply affected him. Seeing so many around him die took its toll.

LGBT Pride Month Local Hero Christine Kehoe Improves Quality of Lif...

LGBT Pride Month Local Hero Christine Kehoe Improves Quality of Life for San Diegans

LGBT Pride Month 2015 Honoree

June 8
By Monica Medina

Becoming a politician was the last thing on Christine Kehoe’s mind when she was growing up in Troy, New York. She didn’t even run for student government at her high school. Yet in 1993, Kehoe would open doors, becoming the first member of the LGBT community to hold an elected office in San Diego.

Asian Pacific Heritage Month Local Hero Azim Khamisa Teaches Princi...

Asian Pacific Heritage Month Local Hero Azim Khamisa Teaches Principles of Non-Violence

Asian Pacific American Heritage Month 2015 Honoree

May 6
By Monica Medina

Six weeks before Tariq Khamisa's 21st birthday, on a cold Saturday night in January 1995, the San Diego State University sophomore was gunned down while delivering pizza. It was part of a gang initiation, called "Jacking the Pizza Man," and Tony Hicks, the one being initiated, fired the fatal bullet. He was 14 years old.

Asian Pacific American Heritage Month Local Hero Daniel Hoang Makes...

Asian Pacific American Heritage Month Local Hero Daniel Hoang Makes a Difference Through Martial Arts

Asian Pacific American Heritage Month 2015 Honoree

May 5
By Monica Medina

Daniel Hoang had set his dreams on becoming a physician. He volunteered at hospitals, and studied biochemistry at University of California, San Diego (UCSD), in 1994. He worked three years at Scripps Research Institute Department of Neurobiology, where he received an Excellence Award for Research and Development.

Jewish American Heritage Month Local Hero Virginia Gordon is a Life...

Jewish American Heritage Month Local Hero Virginia Gordon is a Lifelong Activist

Jewish American Heritage Month 2015 Honoree

May 4
By Monica Medina

Throughout her life, Virginia Gordon’s passion for activism has been front and center. She remembers how her grandmother Sadye was deeply involved in Hadassah, the Women’s Zionist Organization of America, and served as an organizer for Youth Aliya, an organization that was founded during World War II to bring Jewish children out of Germany and relocate them to England and Palestine.

Jewish American Heritage Month Local Hero Robin Rady Helps Cancer P...

Jewish American Heritage Month Local Hero Robin Rady Helps Cancer Patients Get Organized with ‘Binder of Hope’

Jewish American Heritage Month 2015 Honoree

May 1
By Monica Medina

Four years ago, Robin Rady was diagnosed with breast cancer. Though it was caught early, it’s the kind of news that could have been enough to put anyone in a deep funk or a tailspin. But Robin, who is known for her warmth and positive energy, searched for clarity and calm. She found it in a binder–and that binder ended up seeing her through one of the toughest periods of her life, a time filled with surgeries, reconstructive surgeries, physical therapy and so much more.

Women’s History Month Local Hero Shara Fisler Helps Youth Become Sc...

Women’s History Month Local Hero Shara Fisler Helps Youth Become Scientific Leaders

Women's History Month 2015 Honoree

March 3
By Monica Medina

Shara Fisler thrives at her job. She is the executive director for the Ocean Discovery Institute, an educational program she founded 15 years ago, in order to empower young people to explore San Diego’s coastal habitats and become scientific and environmental leaders of tomorrow. For someone who started out in life living hundreds of miles away from the nearest ocean, her passion for studying natural habitats actually began in the desert.

Women’s History Month Local Hero Starla Lewis is a Champion for Love

Women’s History Month Local Hero Starla Lewis is a Champion for Love

Women's History Month 2015 Honoree

March 2
By Monica Medina

Children love pretend games and Starla Lewis was no different. She remembers when she was a child living with her grandmother in Springfield, Missouri, playing a game with her cousins that they called “Pretend White.”

Dr. Gail Knight  Inspires as First African-American Woman Chief of ...

Dr. Gail Knight Inspires as First African-American Woman Chief of Staff at Rady Children’s Hospital

Black History Month 2015 Honoree

Feb. 2
By Monica Medina

In Dr. Gail Knight’s office is a wall of photos of patients she has treated. They are mementos of childhood milestones—birthday celebrations, family vacations and graduations. Though she hasn’t treated most of them in years, Knight's pride in them shines through. The pride in knowing that through her work these children are thriving.

Black History Month Local Heroes Jones & Wooten Strengthen Bonds Be...

Black History Month Local Heroes Jones & Wooten Strengthen Bonds Between Fathers and Children

Black History Month 2015 Honorees

Jan. 26
By Monica Medina

Andre Jones and Aaron Wooten know first-hand the important role fathers play in the lives of their children. Jones grew up with his father, Wooten did not; and though their lives took different paths because of it, the two have come together to run Father2Child. The program has one goal: to strengthen the bonds between African-American fathers and their children.

Local Hero Daniel Calac, MD, Addresses Health in American Indian Co...

Local Hero Daniel Calac, MD, Addresses Health in American Indian Community

American Indian Heritage Month 2014 Honoree

Nov. 4
By Monica Medina

As a child growing up on the Pauma Indian Reservation, Daniel Calac, M.D., remembers the dirt. Literally.

Educator Roy Cook selected as 2014 American Indian Heritage Month L...

Educator Roy Cook selected as 2014 American Indian Heritage Month Local Hero

American Indian Heritage Month 2014 Honoree

Oct. 29
By Monica Medina

He is a tribal writer, self-published author, journalist, and a Native singer and American Indian artist. He’s also an educator, one who carries the teachings of his elders and passes them on to the next generation. Meet Roy Cook, a 2014 American Indian Heritage Month Local Hero.

Disability Awareness Month Local Hero Travis Ricks Helps Challenged...

Disability Awareness Month Local Hero Travis Ricks Helps Challenged Athletes Thrive

Disability Awareness Month 2014 Honoree

Oct. 1
By Monica Medina

When Travis Ricks learned he had cancer in his right leg, he was a star football athlete in high school. Sports were his life. Later, when he had to make the decision whether or not to amputate the leg because his treatment options were dwindling, he said, "Let's cut it off. It's time to move on." Yet, if he could do it all over again, keep his leg and be cancer-free, he wouldn't change a thing. In losing his leg, he received something far greater: his relationship with his mother.

Disability Awareness Month Local Hero Alex Montoya ‘Swings for the ...

Disability Awareness Month Local Hero Alex Montoya ‘Swings for the Fences’

Disability Awareness Month 2014 Honoree

Sept. 30
By Monica Medina

It began with a simple twist of fate: a chance encounter between Alex Montoya's uncle, Frank Callahan, and Harvey Fitzhugh, a man wearing a red fez.

Local Hero Myra Curiel Helps Aging Out Foster Youth with Move-in Kits

Local Hero Myra Curiel Helps Aging Out Foster Youth with Move-in Kits

Hispanic Heritage Month 2014 Honoree

Sept. 15
By Monica Medina

When Myra Curiel aged out of the foster care system and enrolled in Casa de Amparo’s New Directions transitional housing program in Oceanside, she received a welcome basket.

Hispanic Heritage Month Local Hero Carmen Kcomt Advocates for Immig...

Hispanic Heritage Month Local Hero Carmen Kcomt Advocates for Immigrant Families

Hispanic Heritage Month 2014 Honoree

Sept. 12
By Monica Medina

Carmen Kcomt is filled with pride. On June 25th, this 2014 Hispanic Heritage Month Local Hero who hails from Peru, finally became a United States citizen. The journey to citizenship was filled with challenges and setbacks that included 11 years of struggling to maneuver through the system in her quest for political asylum—and spending five of those years as an undocumented immigrant.

LGBT Pride Month Local Hero Robert Gleason Builds Consensus

LGBT Pride Month Local Hero Robert Gleason Builds Consensus

LGBT Pride Month 2014 Honoree

June 16
By Monica Medina

Ask anyone who knows Robert Gleason what quality most defines him, and it's pretty much unanimous: consensus builder.

Local Hero Albert Ogle Advocates for LGBT Human Rights

Local Hero Albert Ogle Advocates for LGBT Human Rights

LGBT Pride Month 2014 Honoree

June 13
By Monica Medina

As a child in Belfast, the Reverend Canon Albert Ogle grew up in a place where being gay was criminalized. It was a violent time, filled with sectarian rioting, when Irish Catholics and Nationalists were demanding an end to years of discrimination. Ogle, a 2014 LGBT Pride Month Local Hero, wryly observes that despite the hostility between the factions, there was at least one item both sides could agree on.

Local Hero M.C. Madhavan Shines Light on India’s Culture & Traditions

Local Hero M.C. Madhavan Shines Light on India’s Culture & Traditions

Asian Pacific American Heritage Month 2014 Honoree

May 16
By Monica Medina

Many of us have never been to India and chances are we never will. But it’s a country worth learning about, particularly when you consider that according to the World Economic Forum, India is expected to surpass Japan as the world’s third largest economy by 2015. What’s more, by 2030, it will supplant China as the country with the largest population.

Local Hero Dr. Allen Chan Preserves Asian Pacific Heritage

Local Hero Dr. Allen Chan Preserves Asian Pacific Heritage

Asian Pacific American Heritage Month 2014 Honoree

May 15
By Monica Medina

Dr. Allen Chan leans in to explain to his guests, comprised of three adults and three children, the Chinese custom of finger tapping when served tea. We are sitting around a rather large, round table at the Jasmine Seafood Restaurant enjoying a bountiful meal of Dim Sum, and we also lean in order to better hear him above the din of the packed restaurant.

Local Heroes Helene Bortz and Myrice Goldberg ‘Give Good’

Local Heroes Helene Bortz and Myrice Goldberg ‘Give Good’

Jewish American Heritage Month 2014 Honorees

May 2
By Monica Medina

Helene Bortz has just arrived. She’s in high spirits, exuding a joie de vivre and a sense of purpose, the kind that undoubtedly got her to where she is today. As she warmly greets her business partner of five years, Myrice Goldberg, a woman who seems reserved and low key in comparison, one can soon see how well they complement each other.

Local Hero Ed Samiljan Creates Jewish Continuity through Summer Camp

Local Hero Ed Samiljan Creates Jewish Continuity through Summer Camp

Jewish American Heritage Month 2014 Honoree

May 1
By Monica Medina

Amidst the towering, aromatic pines of the San Bernardino National Forest is Camp Mountain Chai. Like most summer camps, it offers typical activities such as swimming, crafts and sing-alongs. It’s an experience that each summer draws hundreds of San Diego children, and in the process, they’re getting something else: a cultural identity.

Local Hero Vickie Turner Dreams With Her Eyes Open

Local Hero Vickie Turner Dreams With Her Eyes Open

Women's History Month: 2014 Honoree

March 3
By Monica Medina

For Vickie E. Turner, becoming a lawyer wasn’t a childhood dream, but as an accountant for the Las Vegas Gaming Commission, she felt that something was lacking and wanted more. Then a friend told her he was heading to San Diego for law school. The thought intrigued her, so she went along, figuring she'd just test the waters.

Child of Nature, M. Eloise Battle, Works to Preserve Tecolote Canyon

Child of Nature, M. Eloise Battle, Works to Preserve Tecolote Canyon

Women's History Month: 2014 Honoree

Feb. 28
By Monica Medina

Most people seem to have a phobia about rats, and that's just what the boys in M. Eloise Battle's school were counting on the day they tossed a large, dead one right into her bicycle basket. Battle, who was in the seventh grade at the time, didn’t notice at first, but when she did see the specimen in her basket, she exclaimed with glee, "Oh boy! I can practice mounting this!"

Montford Point Marines Jackson, Inge & Reavis: The Story Continues

Montford Point Marines Jackson, Inge & Reavis: The Story Continues

Black History Month 2014 Honorees

Feb. 4
By Monica Medina

The Montford Point Marines are a little known part of U.S. military history. Born out of necessity, when African American men were first drafted to serve in World War II, the legacy of the Marines who trained at Montford Point in North Carolina is a mirror of the times, back when segregation and discrimination were par for the course.

In the Presence of Greatness: Montford Point Marines Jackson, Inge ...

In the Presence of Greatness: Montford Point Marines Jackson, Inge & Reavis

Black History Month 2014 Honorees

Feb. 3
By Monica Medina

True heroism. You can see it in their hands, brown and weathered. Their long fingers, slightly bent from the weight of the load they've had to carry. It's in their faces too, which exemplify a quiet dignity, and in their eyes, which glisten like gems from beneath the Pacific. An homage perhaps, to their time in Hawaii, Saipan, Guam and Okinawa. The crevices that line their faces and their somber, knowing smiles reveal a measure of the life they've lived.

Cosmetologist Tessie Bonner Saves Lives Through Breast Cancer Preve...

Cosmetologist Tessie Bonner Saves Lives Through Breast Cancer Prevention

Black History Month 2014 Honoree

Jan. 31
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.

 Rose-Margaret Orrantia Finds Purpose in Helping American Indian Fo...

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

American Indian Heritage Month 2013 Honoree

Oct. 29
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.

Kumeyaay Elder Jane Dumas Keeps Language & Plant Lore Alive

Kumeyaay Elder Jane Dumas Keeps Language & Plant Lore Alive

American Indian Heritage Month 2013 Honoree

Oct. 29
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.

Linda Bounds on Being Boundless

Linda Bounds on Being Boundless

Disability Awareness Month 2013 Honoree

Oct. 1
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.

Al Kovach Finds A New Way To Serve His Country

Al Kovach Finds A New Way To Serve His Country

Disability Awareness Month 2013 Honoree

Oct. 1
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."

Andrea Skorepa Advocates for San Ysidro

Andrea Skorepa Advocates for San Ysidro

Hispanic Heritage Month 2013 Honoree

Sept. 13
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.

Fabiola Navarro, Local Hero & Human Rights Activist

Fabiola Navarro, Local Hero & Human Rights Activist

Hispanic Heritage Month 2013 Honoree

Sept. 13
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.

Vinnie Pompei Creates Safe Haven for LGBT Children

Vinnie Pompei Creates Safe Haven for LGBT Children

LGBT Pride Month 2013 Honoree

June 6
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.

LGBT Local Heroes Max Disposti and Carolyn Bolton Achieve Success T...

LGBT Local Heroes Max Disposti and Carolyn Bolton Achieve Success Together

LGBT Pride Month 2013 Honoree

June 6
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.

Broadway Musicals: A Jewish Legacy Online Screening Tonight

Broadway Musicals: A Jewish Legacy Online Screening Tonight

May 22
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.

Sophak Yem Stands Up For Human Rights

Sophak Yem Stands Up For Human Rights

Asian Pacific American Heritage Month 2013 Honoree

May 15
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.

 Elmer Bisarra Helps HIV Patients Heal

Elmer Bisarra Helps HIV Patients Heal

Asian Pacific American Heritage Month 2013 Honoree

May 15
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.

And, The 2013 One Book Selection Is…

And, The 2013 One Book Selection Is…

May 14
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.

Local Hero Sy Brenner Advocates for Veterans

Local Hero Sy Brenner Advocates for Veterans

Jewish American Heritage Month 2013 Honoree

May 1
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.

Yale Strom, A Champion for Klezmer

Yale Strom, A Champion for Klezmer

Jewish Heritage Month 2013 Honoree

May 1
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.

Savor San Diego with Su-Mei Yu

Savor San Diego with Su-Mei Yu

April 25
By Monica Medina

For as long as she can remember, Su-Mei Yu’s dream was to leave her home in Thailand to come to America. So, when the opportunity arose at the age of 15, she seized it.

Here for Each Other When Tragedy Strikes

Here for Each Other When Tragedy Strikes

April 16
By Monica Medina

Whenever tragedy strikes, in any part of our country, it affects us all. We go into shock, disbelief, sadness and grief. We become riveted to our television sets, radios, computers, and smart phones, craving every bit of news available. And, the horrors of the day are played over and over until they become embedded in our hearts and minds.

Frank Meeink: Transforming Hate

Frank Meeink: Transforming Hate

April 10
By Ashley Rodriguez, Monica Medina

What does evil look like? Just ask Frank Meeink, who became a skinhead at age 13, and spent years struggling with the demons inside him—the ones that caused him to pick fights for no reason, sometimes beating his victims senseless. It took incarceration to help him turn his life around, a life that was captured in the film, American History X.

San Diego Cooks:  El Borrego

San Diego Cooks: El Borrego

April 3
By Monica Medina

When Rodnia Novarro and her mother Rosario Sotelo opened El Borrego, a restaurant in the heart of El Cajon Boulevard nearly eight years ago, it was with one purpose in mind: to bring to San Diego the traditional cuisine of Southern Mexico, from barbacoa to green pozole.

Women’s History Month Online Screening

Women’s History Month Online Screening

March 27
By Monica Medina

I was but a little girl when I started hearing the first rumblings of the Feminist Movement. As I grew older it was fascinating to see it all unfold—from the Feminine Mystique, to the protests and marches on the nation’s capital, to Erica Jong’s best-selling book, “Fear of Flying,” and to the launch of Ms. magazine, and my very first copy at the age of sixteen.

One Book, One San Diego—Nominate a Book!

One Book, One San Diego—Nominate a Book!

March 13
By Monica Medina

One Book, One San Diego is off and running. Or, to put it in the words of Sherlock Holmes, “The game is afoot!” All this month, you have the unique opportunity to help choose the next One Book.

Marcela Zhou:  Face of the Young Undocumented

Marcela Zhou: Face of the Young Undocumented

March 6
By Monica Medina

Marcela Zhou, an engaging young woman, is a recent graduate from UCSD, who earned her B.S. in Human Biology in just three years. Soft spoken and polite, she smiles brightly when she thinks about all she has been able to achieve.

For Amina Sheik Mohamed, Women’s Health is First

For Amina Sheik Mohamed, Women’s Health is First

Women's History Month: 2013 Honoree

March 1
By Monica Medina

San Diego’s City Heights neighborhood is home to one of the largest Somali populations in the nation. Many arrived here as refugees in the early 1990s, during a time of civil war strife in Somalia. One of those who settled here at that time is Amina Sheik Mohamed. Today she is manager of the African American Campaign for the Network for a Healthy California operated locally from the University of California, San Diego. She is also a 2013 Women’s History Month Local Hero honoree.

Ginita Wall and Candace Bahr Teach Women to Become Financially Savvy

Ginita Wall and Candace Bahr Teach Women to Become Financially Savvy

Women's History Month: 2013 Honoree

March 1
By Monica Medina

Two decades ago, in the throes of my divorce, I discovered a workshop that became my lifeline. It’s called Second Saturday: Divorce Workshop for Women, and for me, participating in it helped me get through one of the most difficult, wrenching periods of my life.

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