Celebrating Asian American and Pacific Island Month

 
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In recognition of Asian American and Pacific Island Month, we want to celebrate some of the folks who have contributed to our ever evolving and growing community. We asked some of our AAPI staff to tell us their story and share some of the lessons they’ve learned throughout the years.

JEREMY YEE

Diablo Rock Gym Manager
he/him/his

First up, the leader at Diablo Rock Gym in Concord, Jeremy Yee. Jeremy has been a part of the Touchstone team since 2010. Jeremy’s with career Touchstone can be summed up with four words: “Right place, right time.” After managing Great Western Power Co. in Oakland since 2010, he’s stoked to have been able to “come home” in the Fall of 2019 and serve the community where he was born & raised. While he still climbs, nowadays he can more often be found chuffing at fatherhood and board games.

How would you describe your cultural identity?
Bay Area (But also, Chinese-American)

Who is your biggest influence and why?
My children. They remind me each day that love trumps everything, and that patience can solve most problems.

What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned in the last year?
That it’s okay to wear pajamas & slippers all day. And to be a more earnest & intentional listener.

What kind of advice would you give to your 18 year old self?
Effort is a skill, so start practicing now.

What does AAPI Heritage Month mean to you?
I celebrate AAPI Heritage Month to acknowledge & preserve our (AAPIs) cultural relevance and (re)learn the stories of my family and our people.

What is something you’re most proud of?
It probably sounds corny, but “V10 by 40” was a super fun goal and taught me a lot about self-belief, persistence & not to put limitations on myself or my goals.

What’s the best part of your job?
That new member/climber psyche. It reminds me of how I felt 15+ years ago when I first started climbing.

If you could have any super power what would it be?
Well, I have a shelf full of Incredible Hulk collectibles, so you can probably guess… definitely super intelligence.



ERIC NAKANO

Facilities Project Coordinator
he/him/his

Eric joined the Touchstone staff in 2014. After completing his BA in Photography, he moved to San Francisco and landed a job running the youth after-school programs at Dogpatch Boulders. Eric has since left Dogpatch to help manage facilities projects across all of our gyms, including the ones yet to be built.

How would you describe your cultural identity?
Japanese/American

Who is your biggest influence and why?
I don’t think I can pick just one person to be my biggest influence. I appreciate anyone who can challenge my perceptions, change my mind, help me admit when I’m wrong.

What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned in the last year?
The biggest lesson I’ve learned in the last year is that every opportunity I have to do something that brings me joy, is a huge privilege.

What does AAPI Heritage Month mean to you?
For me, AAPI Heritage Month is a time to consider the forces shaping my ethnic/cultural identity. I think about the ways in which my own assimilation into American culture is vastly different from that of my two brothers. One of my brothers is very connected with his Japanese roots, the other has selected ‘White’ on surveys related to race, and I’m somewhere between them. It’s clear to me that if three brothers can’t agree on what it means to fall into the AAPI category, there’s tremendous nuance to be explored here.

What kind of advice would you give to your 18 year old self?
Start saving for retirement.

What is something you’re most proud of?
I’m proud of my dad for making a conscious effort to change some of the destructive masculine norms that have been adopted and passed down through our family.

What’s the best part of your job?
The best part of my job is the unpredictability of each day (could arguably be the worst part of my job as well).

If you could have any super power what would it be?
I would want the ability to scale up or down my physical size.


KJ De Jesus

Equity, Diversity, + Inclusivity Coordinator
she/her/hers

You’ll rarely see this lady without a huge smile on her face. KJ started at Touchstone in 2017 managing Verdigo Boulders in Burbank. She is now at the helm of our EDI efforts. She loves conversations that challenge conventional ways of thinking and doing, constantly asking her favorite question: “Why?”

How would you describe your cultural identity?
I’m Filipino-American, cis, straight, and, able-bodied. I exist in a place that is rooted both in privilege and colonization.

Who is your biggest influence and why?
My sisters, Jeeks & Jan. They’re the ones who I try to be more like. I’ve always admired how Jeeks is so on top of everything she does. She committed, organized, and has a strong moral compass. Jan is fearless, strong-willed, and a go getter. She has an adventurous spirit, a wild child curious about the world. These women challenge me to be better and I couldn’t ask for better role models.

What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned in the last year?
I just as much as I am capable of doing good, I also harness the power to do harm, regardless of intention.

What kind of advice would you give to your 18 year old self?
Treat yourself like you treat your best friend. Listen to your gut. Believe in yourself. Most especially, treat yourself graciously.

What does AAPI Heritage Month mean to you?
It’s a reminder to take up space, celebrate our ancestors and where we come from. It’s a reminder to find pride in and heal from my own experiences of Filipino-Americanness. Lastly, it’s creating a new meaning of what it means to be Asian and Pacific Islander in America.

What is something you’re most proud of?
Adulting successfully-ish. There are some days when I think to myself, “Wow, I’m actually doing it.”

What’s the best part of your job?
My staff. The connection we have is nothing less than familial and I’m proud of each and everyone one of them. They’re unapologetically themselves and share their ideas with the common goal of bettering our space. Brad, Joe, Martha, and Nelson thank you for working with me! Special shout out to Ice and Sara! <3

If you could have any super power what would it be?
Of all the superheroes, Ma-Ti from Captain Planet, has the coolest power. Ma-Ti’s ring provides telepathic and empathic abilities that allow them to communicate with animals and appeal to the hearts of others. IMO the power of heart was the guiding light for the team and Ma-Ti was the most underrated.

 


 

CHRIS ZENG

Dogpatch Boulders Manager
he/him/his

Chris grew up in San Francisco around Chinatown after moving here from China at 8 years old. He snagged a desk staff job at Dogpatch Boulder in 2016 and is now the boss!

How would you describe your cultural identity?
I was born in China and immigrated here when I was 7. I would describe myself as a Chinese American – more American than Chinese to be honest

What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned in the last year?
Life’s too short, live it to the fullest.. as cliche as it sounds haha.

What kind of advice would you give to your 18 year old self?
Invest in your future! Listen to your parents! Work hard, play less

What is something you’re most proud of?
Being a first-gen Chinese American, it means a lot to my parents that I received a decent college education. I saw how much my parents invested in my education, so I worked hard to make sure I graduate college. Looking back, it is something I’m really proud of!

What’s the best part of your job?
Being around people who share the same passion. My coworkers.

Thanks to all of you for sharing your stories. We have so many incredible AAPI staff and from us to you, Happy Asian American and Pacific Island Month!