October 2017

October 24, 2017

Quarterly Director’s Letter

Wayne Sugita
Chief Program Development Officer


It’s been quite a wild ride since joining KYCC in mid-March.  After 27 years working for the County of Los Angeles, it’s so refreshing to be working again in a community-based organization with you all. Sometimes I have to pinch myself to make sure I’m not just dreaming.

At the same time, KYCC faces one of the most challenging and dynamic periods in U.S. history for non-profit community-based human service agencies.  Multiple forces are causing tremendous disruptions in our society and in our traditional human services systems.  And Koreatown experiences its own huge transformation at the epicenter of growth in greater Los Angeles.  KYCC indeed finds itself in the midst of the most critical time since its founding over 42 years ago.  What an exciting yet scary time to be working here!

I’m thoroughly enjoying working with you all in facing the future – both in seizing the opportunities and overcoming the challenges that these tumultuous times present us – and coming out of it an even more robust and resilient organization able to effectively serve the new Koreatown community. Here we go…!

-Wayne Sugita

What’s New

New Hires

Jessica Ortega

Hello, my name is Jessica Ortega and I am a senior at CSULA. Before attending CSULA I attended East Los Angeles College where I was able to prepare myself and surround myself with positive role models. Those role models were professors that encourage us to transfer to a four year university in order to be successful in life. As a minority individual, I always wanted to attend a university in order to help my parents out and I wanted to proof to them that they did right thing in coming to a country that is full of opportunities. While I attended East Los Angeles College I volunteered in their child development center. At the child development center I was able to help children expand their reading and writing skills. I would also help them with their homework but overall I was also a role model to them as they needed someone to guide them in their education. At ELAC I was also part of the ELAC Puente Club. The ELAC Puente Club was the best decision I did because I was able to surround myself with students who also aspire to transfer to a four year university. The ELAC Puente Club had mentors in whom guided us and offer us their full support at all times. The best part of the Puente club was that I was able to run for a position as a delegate. Winning the role as a delegate was an accomplishment for me. Taking that role meant that I was able to inform students of the resources the ELAC Puente club would be able to provide for them and it meant that I needed to speak on behalf of the Puente club when needed.  After that point of my life, I applied to CSULA which lead me to applying to their social work program. I wanted to help those in need, especially help those who do not have a voice in this country. Part of the social work program was to do an internship in an agency that is going to help you grow as a professional and as an individual. I chose KYCC because I wanted to work with immigrants who are having a hard time adjusting to this country. I wanted to help those who have not been able to succeed in life due to the economic disadvantage minorities go through in this country. But overall I wanted to work with families and the community in order to empower them with resources that KYCC can provide for them in order to move upward in life.

Karina Lopez Saldaña
Menlo Intern

I am social work major and attend Azusa Pacific University. My hometown is Carpinteria which is right next to Santa Barbara. I am currently doing Los Angeles Term through APU which is an urban semester program that combines experience-based education, hands-on professional training, and cultural immersion into a comprehensive academic semester. The uniqueness of this program is its commitment to total cultural immersion, social change, and community engagement. The reason why I choose to intern at KYCC was because the organization supports children and their families in so many different areas. KYCC is connecting relationships with kids and their parents supporting them as a whole. I wanted to have more experience in the social work field which KYCC offered by doing case management with families. Lastly, I don’t have a set idea of the setting I would like to work in for my career, so KYCC would allow me to narrow my choices.

Employee Spotlight

Melanie Villasenor
Assistant Teacher, Kids Town
Academic Assistant, Youth Services

Please Tell Me About Yourself?
My name is Melanie Villasenor. I am twenty six years old. I worked at KYCC for about 8 months now. This is the first nonprofit organization that I’ve worked in, and I love it. Compared to my old job in retail, my job here is better. I am a hybrid staff – I work part-time at Kids Town in a preschool setting, and I work part time at ETP.

Can you share with us something most people don’t know about you?
Something that people don’t know about me is that I’m very crafty. I like to decorate, and I love art. I like to do canvas art with acrylic paint. I have many of my work hanging in my home.  I also like to sing. “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” is one of my all-time favorite song to sing.

What do you do in your free time?
I like to go to the movies. I love watching movies on my downtime. Even though I’m really scared of scary movies, I do enjoy watching scary movies the best. I just saw the movie “It” and I loved it. I heard mixed reviews, but I enjoyed watching the movie.  I also like to go to the beach – it’s my time to relax.  I love the shells, the sand, the sound of the waves. It’s more like relaxation time for me.

 What do you love the most about your job, and what is the most challenging?
At first the most challenging part was trying to be strict with the kids. I consider myself very nice, but sometimes children need to know, “Hey, this is what we need to do,” and set that strict tone with them. The best part about working here is that I get the privilege to work with kids from different ages – from pre school to elementary. I never had the chance to do that until now.

What inspires you to do the work you do?
My mom really motivates me. But, my inspiration came from my first grade teacher who was not nice to me at all. I had a really bad experience, but because of her, I am who I am today. She would intimidate me. It was very hard for me to learn, and she would just belittle me. Because I didn’t learn fast enough like the other kids, she would make me feel not that good. I want to be the opposite of her, and I want to be that role model for the kids. I am grateful for the experience though.

What did you like working at both Kids Town and ETP?
Working at Kids Town, it may look chaotic, but it’s controlled chaos. At ETP, I love how there is room to grow. You can make your own lessons – it’s more free and less restrictions. I like being a hybrid staff – you get the best of both worlds and I get to learn a lot. I love being the double threat and have the opportunity to be part of both programs.

What is your fondest memory to date at your time at KYCC?
My fondest memory to date was Summer Day Camp. I have so many memories with the kids and the teacher. It was really fun. I especially loved the field trips, though at the same time it was a bit scary because I have to keep my group together. We went to the zoo, and we get to see the animals. But throughout the whole time, I kept counting, “One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, eleven” to make sure I had all 11 kids with me. I had first graders.

Where do you imagine yourself to be 10 years from now?
Oh my goodness, ten years from now? I would imagine myself maybe being a director of a preschool. Having my own home, and hopefully a better car. Maybe have little ones. I don’t know, ten years from now is a long time.

Why do you consider KYCC a special place?
KYCC is really geared to my heart because it doesn’t feel like just work. It feels like I’m working with family. KYCC is like my second family. I love working here.

A New 21 and Over Lounge Serves Cereal and Boozy Milk in Koreatown

Staff’s Favorite Food Spot(light)

Biriyani Kabob House

By Vince Leus

At Biriyani Kabob House, immigrants eat well and rub shoulders

West of the congested 3rd Street & Vermont Avenue intersection is a modest Bangladeshi-Indian-Pakistani restaurant called Biriyani Kabob House. The 4-year-old restaurant is tucked inside a small plaza that neighbors a Korean dumpling house, a boba shop, and a pizza shop. The plaza is a testament to Koreatown’s multiethnic mosaic that we at KYCC often celebrate.

I brought along members of our Prevention team, Mayra Jimenez and Mihae Jung, to enjoy the festivities. Walking inside we are reintroduced to the ubiquitous setup of most immigrant owned restaurants: a couple sets of chairs and tables, a counter to order, and a collage of paper signs announcing the daily specials that probably never change.

We decided to stop by off a recommendation by Youth Services Manager Ernie Yoshikawa. “There’s a bald guy there who’s pretty rude, but I’ll put up with it for their biriyani,” he said in his entry to our “KYCC Staff Restaurant Recommendations” survey.

Luckily we didn’t get the bald guy. Instead, we met a cheerful man named Jahaim. Jahaim is a short and stout Bangladeshi uncle-type, with a balding head and a big grin. He was patient with us as we asked various questions regarding the dishes.

“Oh, it’s very good,” he said­, with a big grin, about all of the dishes I asked about. I trusted his judgement fine.

I decided to kick the urge to go for the usual chicken tikka masala, and went for vegetarian korma: cauliflower, potatoes, and carrots in a thick, sweet yellow curry sauce. Mayra had the saag paneer, a classic Indian dish made of cooked spinach, paneer (a cheese) thickened with a sweet cream. While Mihae had daal tadka, savory lentils in a warm, orange soup.

It was only our second time eating in the Little Bangladesh neighborhood, the first was on a tour of the area with our partners from the South Asian Network. I drive through Little Bangladesh weekly but seldom think of it as a part of Koreatown. I wondered why there seemed to be this detachment between Little Bangladesh and Koreatown. Well, you can always look to history for the answers.

According to an ABC 7 article, Little Bangladesh only recently received its official neighborhood designation from the city in 2011. Led by the Little Bangladesh Project, they immediately butted heads with Koreatown’s Korean leaders when they applied for the designation in 2009. Little Bangladesh Project’s application requested a 56-block area from 3rd Street to Wilshire Boulevard and Western Street to Vermont Street that would, in Koreatown leaders’ eyes, have taken land from the de facto Koreatown. In response, Koreatown leaders submitted their own neighborhood designation application for Koreatown that included the proposed Little Bangladesh area.

Then-Councilmember Tom LaBonge mediated the land dispute between Koreans and Bangladeshis. Proposing various compromises and bringing both sides to the table to talk. In the end, the Little Bangladesh Project received their neighborhood designation for a 4-block area on 3rd street between New Hampshire Street and Alexandria Avenue.

I am reminded that “multiethnic” does not always mean harmony. In the contest for space in an increasingly more crowded neighborhood, conflict will arise.

While I do not know if there is bad blood between Koreans and Bangladeshis today, I can speak to my own experience: On our tour of the neighborhood a year ago, Mihae (who is Korean) and me were welcomed with open arms by local community leaders to discuss housing issues residents face. Our Prevention team has worked for the past 5 years with several South Asian liquor store owners, in and outside Little Bangladesh, who we have built rapport with.

Peaceful coexistence does exist here. Walk along 3rd Street and you will see a mix of Korean, Bangladeshi, as well as Oaxacan and Salvadorean shops and people. Ordinary life continues in the immigrant working-class’s struggle to prosper in Los Angeles.

At Biriyani Kabob House, an elderly Korean man who serves as the plaza’s security guard popped in his head through the door to greet Jahaim. And with the same big grin he gave me, he looked at the man  and greeted him back.


Birthdays and KYCC Anniversaries


  • Oct 2 – Byron Ardoin
  • Oct 13 – Conzuelo Rodriguez
  • Oct 15 – Tyrone Anderson
  • Oct 25 – Sarah Cho

Work Anniversaries

  • Oct 1 – 2 years – HaRi Kim
  • Oct 1 – 2 years – Danielle Joo
  • Oct 3 – 1 year – Helen Ban
  • Oct 3 – 1 year – Evelyn Balderas
  • Oct 3 – 1 year – Rebecca Yu
  • Oct 3 – 1 year – Rudy Fortiz
  • Oct 4 – 13 years – Ernie Yoshikawa
  • Oct 14 – 1 year – Hisu Chung
  • Oct 17 – 12 years – Luz Favela
  • Oct 18 – 11 years – Audrey Casillas
  • Oct 29 – 10 years – Nayon Kang
  • Oct 31 – 5 years – Katherine Kim

Open Positions

Have some talented and driven friends? Let them know about our open positions.

  • Admin – Fiscal Manager
  • CED – Outreach and Education Business Counselor
  • Clinical – Clinical Supervisor
  • Clinical – Program Administrative Assistant
  • Environmental – Clean Streets Specialist
  • Kids Town – Family Advocate
  • Youth Services – Academic Instructor
  • Youth Services – Youth Prevention Specialist

Take Note!

On speaking up

by Seth Godin

The status quo is not kind. It works overtime to stay the status quo, and that means that new ideas, urgent pleas and cries for justice are rarely easily voiced.

We’re pleased that Annie Kenney stood up for a woman’s right to vote all those years ago, even if she got arrested for doing so. And we’re proud of Elijah Harper, who brought a debate to a standstill when he stood up for the rights of indigenous people. We’re glad that Lois Gibbs stood up to fight for the families near Love Canal, and that Rachel Carson was able to save countless lives by blowing the whistle on how we were poisoning ourselves.

The historical examples are pretty much beyond dispute. When we think about the past, our heroes are those that were willing to persist even when their critics tried to silence them.

Where it becomes challenging is when someone around us chooses to speak up. Today. Now.

It might be someone in HR who risks his job to report the boss to the board. Or it might be an unlikely activist, standing up for a cause that wasn’t on our radar. It might be someone in accounting who has found a better way to do things, or an unknown with no power or authority who stands up and says, “follow me.”

We can’t judge those that challenge the status quo merely on their rule breaking. Because the rules only exist to maintain the status quo.

Instead, we have to work ever harder on seeing, listening and supporting the quiet voices who have something important to say. Perhaps, if we listen a bit harder, we’ll be able to do the right thing that much sooner.






1 Comment

  • Reply Person October 24, 2017 at 9:04 pm

    Your art is awesome, Melanie!

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