RISE San Diego Awards Luncheon

Story By Vincent Andrunas, Writer & Photojournalist
Published November 1, 2019

Longtime social activist Dwayne Crenshaw and former San Diego City Council president Tony Young met over coffee in 2014, during a controversy about zoning in Barrio Logan. They were once competitors for a City Council seat, but both now agreed that the neighborhood’s residents had been pushed aside while powerful interests were deciding what should happen to their community.

The two had the intelligence and foresight to see that there was a pressing need to empower people to make a difference in their own urban communities. They wanted to increase local leadership and civic engagement, and to demonstrate that all the toxicity and the hate and the talking down to people didn’t have to happen. They realized that if they could come together as former rivals, they could show the community that we can all be more civil while also doing better for the places we live.

That May, they co-founded RISE San Diego. The acronym represents their priorities: Relationships and valuing Impact, Sustainability, and Excellence. After initial seed funding of $50,000 from the Legler Benbough Foundation, RISE has generated more than $2.2 million in direct economic activity, and over $6 million in public, private, and philanthropic investments through community action projects of RISE alumni. Its highly-successful programs are built on the pillars of Leadership Development, Civil Engagement, and Nonprofit Partnerships.

RISE celebrated its fifth anniversary recently with a Diversity and Inclusion Awards Luncheon, held at the Joe and Vi Jacobs Center. After Nadia Arambula’s costumed folkloric dance performance, RISE co-founders Crenshaw and Young (now CEO and president, respectively) gave a beautifully-choreographed tag-team presentation of their organization’s foundations and goals. Spirited recitals by poets Dairrick Khalil Hodges and Viet Mai followed, receiving enthusiastic audience approval. Council woman Monica Montgomery and state Sen. President pro Tempore Toni Atkins gave addresses recognizing RISE’s value and accomplishments.


Photo credit: Vincent Andrunas

There were 31 nominees for the RISE Inclusive Leadership In Action (ILIA) awards, given in four categories. The final winners were Adela Garcia (Prosperity), Dulce Garcia and Christopher Rice-Wilson (tie, for Democracy), Geneviéve Jones-Wright (Security), and the Neighborhood House Association (Economy). The ultra-popular Dojo Café received the Community Choice award.

RISE San Diego Diversity and Inclusion Awards
Photo credit: Vincent Andrunas

“This is really what leadership is about,” proclaimed Crenshaw and Young in their closing presentation. “They’re the ones who are making this community better, and clearly changing the face of leadership in San Diego.”