Local Heroes Project

Since 1995 Jim Yager Media has partnered with Union Bank and California public television stations to produce over 600 short profiles about the unsung heroes in communities from San Francisco to San Diego. These very special individuals toil behind-the-scenes in the arts, public advocacy, education, and business to meet the unique challenges of today’s society and create better lives for all of us.

The Local Heroes project has received numerous accolades and awards over the years, including a recent Emmy Award nomination. Below are a few of our recent favorites. For more Local Heroes profiles, check out our Jim Yager Media YouTube channel.

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Joe Leal: Local Hero

Joe Leal: Local Hero

Retired Sergeant Joe Leal is a survivor. He experienced homelessness as a youth, served in the U.S. Army in the Bosnian and Iraq wars for four years, where he was injured, and has helped veterans and their families transition from combat to civilian life for the past 13 years. In 2010, he founded Vet Hunters Project (VHP), dedicated to preventing and ending homelessness among veterans. VHP’s efforts have provided housing to more than 1,200 vets and their families.

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Bea Cohen: Local Hero

Bea Cohen: Local Hero

Bea Cohen, a World War II veteran, has spent her life advocating for her fellow soldiers. During the war, she worked at Douglas Aircraft Company and became a living “Rosie the Riveter,” and soon a U.S. Air Force soldier. At 102, Ms. Cohen is still an active member of many organizations, including the Jewish War Veterans Auxiliary and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Hospital. She believes our Veterans are America’s real heroes, and hopes people will honor, remember and thank them for their sacrifices.

Al Kovach: Local Hero

Kovach is a former Navy SEAL and an All-American competitive swimmer. He’s a triathlon athlete, and races hand-cycles and racing cars designed especially for him. He’s also a quadriplegic, as a result of an accident suffered more than two decades ago. Yet, he’s not about to feel sorry for himself. Today, he counsels and assists other disabled vets as one of the leaders of the non-profit Paralyzed Veterans of America.

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Sosei Matsumoto: Local Hero

Sosei Matsumoto: Local Hero

Japanese Tea Ceremony Master Madame Sosei Matsumoto has paved the way for the preservation and recognition of the little-known Japanese art form known as chado, or “way of tea,” in the United States. At 93, Mme. Matsumoto is considered to be the most influential teacher and accomplished master of tea in the U.S. She teaches her students the hundreds of complex steps as followed by the Japanese Urasenke School of Tea.

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Angeles Echols-Brown: Local Hero

Angeles Echols-Brown: Local Hero

Angeles Echols-Brown and her Los Angeles based nonprofit organization Educating Young Minds (EYM) are building a better tomorrow for inner-city students. More than 3,500 students have been nurtured and empowered with the skills and ability to enroll in and graduate from four year universities. EYM boasts an 87 percent success rate of four-year college graduates from universities such as USC, UCLA, Columbia, Spelman, Stanford, Xavier, Berkeley and others.

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Janice Kamenir-Reznik: Local Hero

Janice Kamenir-Reznik: Local Hero

Fighting against genocide and mass atrocities is at the heart of the work of Janice Kamenir-Reznik and Jewish World Watch (JWW). Ms. Kamenir-Reznik has travelled to the Darfuri Refugee Camps and to the Democratic Republic of Congo to meet partners, evaluate funded projects and bear witness to the tragedies which have befallen the people of that region. Since 2004 JWW has raised more than $11 million towards its mission.

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Steven Llanusa: Local Hero

Steven Llanusa: Local Hero

Steven Llanusa is a gay parenting rights advocate, educator and community activist. Currently, Mr. Llanusa is a teacher at Smith Elementary School and board member of the Claremont Unified School District. He is also a father of three adopted sons and a husband to Glenn Miya. Steven is working with the Human Rights Campaign on Welcoming Schools and is developing a workshop that could reduce bullying of LGBT students.

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Dr. Samella Lewis: Local Hero

Dr. Samella Lewis: Local Hero

Dr. Samella Lewis life’s passion is art, and she has touched the lives of artists, scholars, educators, students, and countless others through her dedication and perseverance in the field of African American art. Dr. Lewis became the first tenured African American professor in art history at Scripps College of the Claremont Colleges, and has served as a professor emeritus of art history since 1984; she’s also served as the school’s art history professor since 1969.

Kimberly Chang: Local Hero

Kimberly Chang, MD is a family physician and site director of the Frank Kiang Medical Center of Asian Health Services (AHS), a comprehensive community health center in Oakland’s Chinatown. Dr. Chang serves as a physician advocate, providing direct patient care and also advocating for one of the most marginalized segments of our society — child victims of commercial sexual exploitation.