2014 APA Heritage Month Honorees

AACI & NBC Bay Area Salute These Asian Community Members Making a Difference

NBC Bay Area and Asian Americans for Community Involvement (AACI) congratulate the 2014 Asian Pacific American Heritage Month Honorees, community leaders in the Bay Area! Please see their bios and photos below. The honorees will be recognized at a May luncheon at NBC Bay Area in San Jose.

Shubham Banerjee

At 12-years-old, Shubham Banerjee, who attends San Jose’s Champion School, invented what he now calls the “Braigo.” After learning how expensive Braille printers were, he spent four weeks fitting together Legos pieces with robotic parts until he had created his Braille reader. Shubham first got the idea to pursue his creation when he saw a flyer that was asking for donations to help the blind. His curiosity led him to the internet where he researched about how blind people read. That’s when he discovered how expensive Braille printers can be and decided to try and make one.

Shubham’s Braigo made its debut at his school’s science fair and is currently the only prototype that exists. He has shared the detailed instructions on how to build one for everyone and made it open source.

Donald H. Cheu, M.D., F.A.C.S.

Dr. Donald H. Cheu is a Board Certified General Surgeon, Fellow of the American College of Surgeons, and a retired member of the Surgery Department Staff of the Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in So. San Francisco, California. He received his AB degree from Stanford University and his medical degree from the University of California, San Francisco. He has chaired the following committees: California Medical Association Disaster Committee, State Office of Emergency Service’s Disaster Medical Care Committee, the San Mateo County Medical Society’s Ad Hoc Committee on Trauma and its Committee on Emergency and Disaster Care. He was the Vice Chairman of the Response group of committees for the Governor’s Earthquake Task Force. He has given over 250 lectures on disaster related topics. He has been a Stanford Research International Consultant to the Ministry of Planning, Saudi Arabia. He was a member and chair of the San Mateo County Emergency Medical Care Committee and a Past Disaster Chair for American Red Cross Bay Area. He was the Medical Consultant for the American Red Cross Bay Area Disaster Health Services from 1983 to 1999 and the American Red Cross Bay Area Chapter Volunteer Lead for Disaster Health Services in 2003. He was President of the San Mateo County Medical Association. He was a member of the State Emergency Medical Services Authority’s Disaster Interest Group and Exercise Planning Committee. He was a member of the State Hospital Building Safety Board and Vice Chair of the Ad Hoc Committee on CBC 420A. He was a member of the State Committee on EMS Safety. He was the Interim EMS Medical Director for San Mateo County. He is the retired Commander of the Bay Area Disaster Medical Assistance Team (DMAT) CA-6. In 1998, he received the National Red Cross Cynthia Weidel Award for Distinguished Volunteer Service.

In 2009, he received the State of California EMS Authority’s Distinguish Service Medal for providing statewide Disaster leadership for more than 30 years. In 2010, he received the Stanford Asian Alumni of the Year Award. He received his American Red Cross 50 year pin in 2013. He was recognized as an American Red Cross Community Hero at a Stanford University event in 2014.

Albert H. Le, DDS

Public service has always been that repeated phone call placed to a wrong number that Albert always seem to answer and reluctant to hang up on. He never originally intended to be a public servant, but has a knack for finding himself in some sort of public service. While attending Independence High School in San Jose, Albert founded the Far East Dragon Lion Dance Association and later incorporated into a 501(c)3 nonprofit as Executive Director. What began as a cultural fascination with the lion dance grew into a vehicle for youth and gender empowerment as the group featured female lion dancers prominently in a cultural dance that seldom included them.

While in college, Albert’s interest in current events and community service with his nonprofit led a friend to recommend Albert to take part in the Asian Pacific American Leadership Institute (APALI), an educational and public service organization. What was supposed to be a summer spent as a mentor educating young people on social justice and civic engagement grew into three years of putting into practice these lessons in public service as APALI’s Head Program Coordinator.

After APALI, Albert entered dental school at the University of Southern California, but stayed involved in public service by co-founding and actively participating with the USC Nisei Diploma Project. This was a successful student-led campaign to award previously denied honorary awards to former USC students of Japanese American background who had their education interrupted and interned during WWII. It was one of his proudest moments to walk alongside these honorees when they received their awards as he received his doctorate. He even helped push one honoree in his wheelchair during the ceremony!

Albert is currently a licensed general dentist with experience practicing in the Los Angeles, Sacramento and San Jose areas. He has practiced dentistry in a variety of communities including many underprivileged ones. However, the limited scope of impact of practicing dentistry by itself has not created the broader social impact that Albert grew accustomed to in his previous works. Instead, Albert has returned to public service by being involved with leading a Youth Leadership Summit in Eastside San Jose for APALI, the New Leaders Council as a Fellow and a volunteer with South Bay First Thursdays, a volunteering group under Asian Americans for Community Involvement (AACI).

Albert was born and raised in San Jose, CA and holds a BA in Political Science from San Jose State University and a Doctorate in Dentistry from the University of Southern California.

Crisanta Raras

Crisanta Raras is 20 years old currently attending De Anza College as a nursing major. A big challenge that she faced while growing up as an immigrant was adjusting to America’s way of living. She came to California in 1999 when she was just 5 years old. She needed to learn how to speak English so she was placed in ESL classes until she was in 2nd grade. During her 5th grade year, Crisanta was introduced to marijuana and instantly became addicted.

During her freshman year in high school, she was recruited for Project PLUS where she met the AACI counselors, Joma and Patrick. One day when her family was having financial issues, Crisanta approached Joma and asked him if he knew of any opportunities out there. If not, she was going to sell weed because it was easy to access. Fortunately, Joma told me there was an opportunity he had available through AACI RYSE (Resilient Youth Striving for Excellence) Afterschool program at El Rancho Verde Apartments. She accepted the offer and worked as a Youth Development Specialist Intern for 4 years. She now works as an actual Youth Development Specialist with the program.

The work Crisanta has done as an intern taught her what responsibility and accountability meant. She’s had younger youth than her look up to her and expect her to be there when needed, and she couldn’t let them down. AACI Youth Services is an important aspect in her life because everything she’s learned while being a participant in the program to working as an AACI employee has helped her make healthier decisions and grow into the empowered woman she’s become. If it wasn’t for AACI, who knows where she’d be now.