San Francisco Advantage

Connections to San Francisco’s Filipino Community Run Deep

by Kathleen de Lara, Office of Marketing Communications

Filipinos living in San Francisco’s South of Market (SOMA) district know the West Bay Pilipino Multi-Service Center for what it offers area residents: Myriad services to students, adults, seniors and veterans. Many of the same residents also know the University of San Francisco’s Yuchengco Philippines Studies Program (YPSP), which has been an active partner with West Bay for more than a decade.

Since 1999, USFers have volunteered at West Bay — tutoring elementary through high school students, mentoring them, and making them after-school eats. But the partnership really began to grow in recent years, with almost 500 students contributing more than 4,000 service hours between 2004-11. About 700 of those service hours were in 2011, said Jay Gonzalez, USF professor and director of YPSP.

Most USF volunteers at West Bay are Filipino or Philippines studies majors who want to connect with San Francisco’s Filipino community and give back to the neighborhood that many of their families began settling in the 1960s. West Bay, which has been part of the neighborhood for 44 years, supports students with after-school tutoring and provides families and veterans with financial literacy and housing assistance, as well as public health and employment assistance.

“USF students are incredible role models and have done a tremendous job fostering self-esteem in our kids,” said Rudy Asercion, West Bay’s executive director. “This type of environment is important, more than anything else, to motivating the kids to stay in school and get good grades.”

USF YPSP students aren’t alone in working with San Francisco’s Filipino community. USF Kasamahan members, a student-run Filipino culture club, and Chi Upsilon Zeta, a social justice and community service oriented fraternity, have partnered with West Bay to guide students on field trips in SOMA, a neighborhood rich in Philippine resources, including the San Francisco Filipino Cultural Center and the Filipino Education Center.

“Working with the Filipino youth of SOMA brought me back to my roots,” said Carla Laurel ’10, a YPSP graduate. “It made me feel responsible for the well-being of all Filipino Americans trying to succeed in America.”                                                                                                                                                                             

Laurel, who worked as a West Bay program director from 2008-11, received academic scholarships from the Conference of Asian Pacific American Leadership and the Financial Women’s Association of San Francisco as a result of her efforts to improve West Bay’s tutoring and homework program. She increased student volunteer involvement by recruiting almost 50 USFers and also acquired 20 retired computers from USF for the center. The computers allow students to complete school assignments and give adults access to employment resources.

“USF makes it a point to educate its students to use their minds and hearts to help those around them,” Laurel said. “USF YPSP students have done just that by bringing richness and support to San Francisco’s Filipino community.”                                                     

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