2024 Speakers

Bill Watanabe, M.S.W. '72

Founding Executive Director, Little Tokyo Service Center

Bill Watanabe was the founding Executive Director of the Little Tokyo Service Center (LTSC) in downtown Los Angeles.   For 32 years, he guided its growth, in conjunction with the Board of Directors, from a one-person staff to a multi-faceted social services and community development program with 150 paid staff, many of whom are bilingual in any of eight Asian Pacific languages and Spanish.  Bill retired from LTSC in June 2012.

While at LTSC Bill helped to establish several key service organizations such as the Asian Pacific Community Fund, the National Coalition for Asian Pacific American Community Development, the Asian Pacific Counseling and Treatment Center, the Coalition to Abolish Slavery & Trafficking, and the Little Tokyo Community Council.   Bill is also the founder of the national Asian Pacific Islander Americans for Historic Preservation (APIAHiP) and the Little Tokyo Historical Society.

Bill has an MSW from UCLA, is married and has one daughter and lives in Silver Lake near downtown Los Angeles.  While formally retired, Bill is currently the President of a new project called the Little Tokyo Community Impact Fund, a community-based real estate investment fund aimed to help heritage small businesses in Little Tokyo.

Erich Nakano, M.A. '93

Executive Director, Little Tokyo Service Center

Bill Watanabe was the founding Executive Director of the Little Tokyo Service Center (LTSC) in downtown Los Angeles.   For 32 years, he guided its growth, in conjunction with the Board of Directors, from a one-person staff to a multi-faceted social services and community development program with 150 paid staff, many of whom are bilingual in any of eight Asian Pacific languages and Spanish.  Bill retired from LTSC in June 2012.

While at LTSC Bill helped to establish several key service organizations such as the Asian Pacific Community Fund, the National Coalition for Asian Pacific American Community Development, the Asian Pacific Counseling and Treatment Center, the Coalition to Abolish Slavery & Trafficking, and the Little Tokyo Community Council.   Bill is also the founder of the national Asian Pacific Islander Americans for Historic Preservation (APIAHiP) and the Little Tokyo Historical Society.

Bill has an MSW from UCLA, is married and has one daughter and lives in Silver Lake near downtown Los Angeles.  While formally retired, Bill is currently the President of a new project called the Little Tokyo Community Impact Fund, a community-based real estate investment fund aimed to help heritage small businesses in Little Tokyo.

Vivian Lee, M.S.W. '06

Executive Director, Little Tokyo Service Center

Vivian Lee is the Co-Director of Counseling Programs at Little Tokyo Service Center (LTSC). For over 40 years, LTSC has provided a safety net of social welfare and community development services to empower people and communities in need.

Vivian started as a Master of Social Work (MSW) intern at LTSC in 2005 for her second-year internship in the UCLA MSW Program. She provided individual therapy to women at Kosumosu, a transitional housing program for Domestic Violence (DV) survivors. She was honored to join the LTSC family after graduation and became the DV housing program coordinator in 2007. Currently, she oversees the daily operations of Kosumosu, provides weekly case management services and conducts support groups for DV survivors. Vivian believes in the strengths of the survivors she has worked with and has witnessed their resilience while overcoming their abusive experiences. In addition, Vivian works with seniors, coordinates the MSW internship program and provides clinical supervision to social workers. Vivian became a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in 2010.

Vivian was born and grew up in Hong Kong and speaks both Cantonese and Mandarin. She practices self-care by learning yoga, reading spy novels and doing crafts.

Grant Sunoo, M.A. '06

Director of Community Building and Engagement, Little Tokyo Service Center

Grant Sunoo (he/him) is Director of Community Building & Engagement at Little Tokyo Service Center. LTSC is a non-profit organization established in 1979 to provide social services for the Japanese
American community. Today, LTSC continues to provide the bicultural and bilingual social services that originally motivated its establishment along with programs focusing on holistic community growth,
affordable housing, economic development and the revitalization of Little Tokyo. In Grant’s current position he oversees LTSC’s community planning, organizing, and small business, as well as helps to manage the Terasaki Budokan recreation center. In this role, Grant leads a team that
works with LTSC’s partners and community members to establish a vision for the neighborhood and works to achieve that vision. The team focuses on issues such as community planning, land use policy,sustainability, small business development, regional coalition building and building power amongstlow-income residents of Little Tokyo.
Prior to joining LTSC, Grant was Deputy Director at Coalition for Responsible Community Development (CRCD), an organization that focused on housing, workforce development, education, and supportive services for transition-aged youth in the Vernon-Central neighborhood of South Los Angeles. In 25 years of working in Los Angeles’ non-profit sector, Grant has experience in coalition building, leadership development, community economic development, and organizational development. Grant received an MA in Urban Planning from UCLA and a BA in Asian American Studies from CSUN. Finally (but most importantly), he is the proud parent of two children (a pretty amazing 9 year-old and a somewhat feral 5.5 year-old).

Caroline Calderon, M.A. '19

Project Manager, Little Tokyo Service Center

Caroline Calderon (she/her) is a Project Manager at the Little Tokyo Service Center responsible for new construction and rehabilitation projects from acquisition and predevelopment through construction completion. Before working in affordable housing development, she worked as an Outreach Coordinator with the Bill Sorro Housing Program and Ethnic Studies teacher with Pin@y Educational Partnerships. During her graduate studies at UCLA, she interned with the Little Tokyo Community Impact Fund and assisted LTSC with research on small businesses in Little Tokyo. She currently serves as a board member of Asian & Pacific Islander Americans in Historic Preservation (APIAHiP) and volunteers with the Historic Filipinotown Coalition. Caroline holds a B.A. in Sociology from the University of San Francisco and a M.A. in Urban & Regional Planning from the University of California at Los Angeles

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