Welcome to the inaugural San Diego Moms column! I am thrilled to bring you a column in which I highlight the stories, issues and events that matter most to local mothers and families.
As the mother of a 5 year old boy and a 3 year old girl, I hope to bring you a space where information meets inspiration and compassion (a rarity on the internet these days!). Grab a cup of coffee and join me every Saturday morning before the parenting madness begins.
For the inaugural column, I wanted to focus on a mother who is rarely in the spotlight but often helps others. One name quickly came to mind: Alicia DeLeon Torres. Torres, a longtime nonprofit leader, jokingly describes her career as an “accident,” but I know few people who care so much about the well-being of others, especially minority communities.
Born into a Navy family, DeLeon Torres attended Mira Mesa High before going to San Diego State University where she earned a degree in sociology. Once an aspiring journalist, DeLeon Torres said he was offered a job at Operation Samahan – a health center focused on the Filipino community and low-income families – where his mother worked.
After Operation Samahan, DeLeon Torres continued to serve San Diegans through other nonprofits, including the Union of Pan-Asian Communities, Asian-Pacific American National Families Against Substance Abuse, and Survivors. torture, to name a few. She said she has stayed in the nonprofit world for more than 30 decades because she believes in hard work.
“I’m staying because I believe in the lifestyle,” said DeLeon Torres, who is currently deputy director of the Nemeth Foundation. “I’m staying because I work primarily with Asian Americans, Pacific Islanders and Hawaiians – I want to help my communities and mentor others to do the same.”
DeLeon Torres also made an impact. She said one of her greatest professional accomplishments was creating a program, through UPAC, to help Filipino American women, who at the time had the highest rate of suicidal ideation. . The program was slated for 250 participants, but they were able to stretch the dollars to help 1,000 people.
Decades later, a San Diego State University student said she heard about DeLeon Torres and the program from the university’s library archives.
“It opened (the student’s) eyes to what our community was going through and how they could help,” said DeLeon Torres.
As DeLeon Torres dedicated her career to serving others, she learned she had the same impact on her daughter.
“I used to take my daughter with me to work or when I spoke at conferences and workshops,” DeLeon Torres said. “I talked about tobacco, drugs, teenage pregnancy, gangs – she was sitting under a table the whole time. Growing up, I realized she listened all the time – she learned never to get involved in any of it.
So how does DeLeon Torres find the inspiration to dedicate over 30 incredible years of serving others? She said her daughter was an inspiration. Other inspirations include Teresa Lucas, who founded the first program for people with developmental disabilities in the Filipino community in San Diego, and Suzanne Emery, former teacher at Mira Mesa High and community leader in Poway, both deceased.
“There are a lot of people who have inspired me in my life,” said DeLeon Torres. “There are a lot of good mothers out there doing the best they can with what they know and have. Their love never goes away.”
If you know someone in crisis, please call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 800-273-8255. For more resources, go to nimh.nih.gov.
San Diego Moms is published every Saturday. Do you have a story idea? Email [email protected] and follow her on Instagram at @hoawritessd.