Brittany Bachmann, Events & Giving Manager, Union of Pan Asian Communities (UPAC)
Youth leaders can be born out of the most unexpected circumstances. When the pandemic hit, the youth at the Union of Pan Asian Communities’ (UPAC) Neighborhood Enterprise Center (NEC), a social enterprise in City Heights, saw the staggering job loss and food insecurity facing the surrounding areas and used their skills and the 4,600 square foot community space to give back.
Through the NEC, youth gain meaningful employment while learning to become active leaders in their community. They receive training in culinary arts, print & design, entrepreneurship, hospitality, and business and, upon completion, qualify for employment at the center. In April of 2020, the NEC partnered with Feeding San Diego to start a weekly food distribution program, run by the youth employees themselves.
Every Thursday, the youth packaged 5,000 lbs. of food into CARE Boxes that were provided to roughly 200 families each week. The boxes not only included food staples and resource information, but also a warm meal from The NEC’s Neighborhood Café prepared with love by the NEC youth.
Additionally, the NEC assisted with COVID-19 Rental Relief Applications through their partnership with the San Diego Housing Commission. As many of the NEC youth represent diverse cultures, they were able to assist with translation services in Vietnamese, Ugandan, Burmese, Spanish, and Somali.
Many of the youth UPAC works with are either part of the juvenile probation system or are immigrants and refugees who are learning how to preserve their cultural identity, while adapting to their new home.
Providing this type of support is something the youth took great pride in. The leadership abilities and compassion they showed was unmatched. Many NEC employees hope to one day work as probation officers, social workers, and community leaders to continue making a difference in the lives of others.
To learn more about the work being done at UPAC’s Neighborhood Enterprise Center, visit www.upacnec.org or stop by The Neighborhood Café (5296 University Ave Suite A, San Diego, CA 92105) open Monday-Friday from 8am-6pm. All proceeds from the Café are invested right back into our youth employment!