Zaneta Encarnacion moved to Chula Vista in 2004 and has called this city her home ever since. Her story began as a military child, being born and raised in San Diego County by a single father who was a Vietnam combat veteran. With a lack of resources and financial support there wasn't many role models in her upbringing. She remembers growing up her family had to rely on the help and support of others, but also remembers they themselves shared what little they had to help others. This authentic sense of community has become part of her DNA.
At the age of 16, she dropped out of high school as she was dealing with the emotional turmoil and lack of support. Until she found her way to enroll at a community college. While her academic journey was not linear, today she holds a Master's degree in Public Administratiom and is now seeking her doctorate degree at the University of Southern California. Because of her own story, Zaneta is a strong advocate for higher education access to underserved communities and at-risk youth, which includes youth of color and the LGBTQ community.
A third generation Filipina of mixed heritage, she has become more and more aware of the privilege of being “a little bit ethnically ambiguous” and acknowledges the responsibility to represent the Filipino community in every space she holds. One of the things she is most proud of is launching the only Asian American Pacific Islander PFLAG chapter in San Diego County, a private, national group responding to the needs from the LGBTQ community.
“ Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) families have very unique needs, Filipinos being one of them when it comes to supporting LGBTQ youth and san diego never had any AAPI chapters and now we do. I was even more proud because even before launching it, my son Matthew was able to write an article that was specific about why it’s so important for FIlipino LGBTQ youth to have leaders, and support systems for parents to support their youth. Now, my service to the community actually includes my son being a part of it, and that is something I am really proud of,” Zaneta said.
She continues her work with youth as the current Chief of Staff to the Superintendent/President of Southwestern College. In this role she ensures the voices of Filipino community members are being heard. Impressed with Filipino youth and students at SWC, she said “they challenge themselves and the biases that they have in our own culture,…I’m so excited for our youth. They are so much more bolder and courageous than when I was growing up, and probably when my dad was growing up. They also are so much more multicultural in the sense that they are focused on unity, their pride and their culture. Their community is never at the expense of another,” Zaneta added.
“It’s important for me to make sure that our Filipino employees and students are seen and represented. It's something that I learned in the city that isn't always there. Being in this position has been helpful in being able to support our Filipino students and employees and also be an advocate to make sure our unique Filipino lived experiences are considered when making decisions,”
“Every time I serve the community it’s just the feeling of family. There's this thing of family ties, purpose, gratitude, the welcoming and the energy that comes from your community when you are working with them. There is a purpose. There are no egos and everyone is just there for the community. That experience and feeling of family and unity is most memorable,” Zaneta shared.