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ACCPF Champion—Kasama Lee

Kasama Lee was born and raised in Bangkok, Thailand until she was 14. She came to the United States because “my parents decided they wanted to start over in the U.S. We had family members in southern California, and that was where we lived. My parents came to California first, and I joined them a few years after.”

Before coming to northern California, Kasama lived in different parts of the U.S., including Lexington, Kentucky, and Illinois. Initially, Kasama came to San Jose and met her husband, Bart, in San Francisco. “I was working in financial services in Daly City. I started working in real estate two years after moving to American Canyon. My sister-in-law was buying a home in American Canyon, and at the time, Bart and I were renting in San Bruno. So every weekend, we would follow them around like little kids. I was five months pregnant with Kwin (her oldest son, now a student at Napa Valley Community College), and I said, ‘we need to buy a house,’ and Bart said, ‘With what? We don’t have any money.’

“At the time, I was at an internet startup company and I had a ton of stock options. So I asked my boss if I could sell some of them, and he said, ‘Do it, do what’s best for your family.’ So that was our down payment on the house in American Canyon. “We found a home with a bedroom and full bathroom downstairs, so my parents could live with us. That’s how we ended up here.” Kwin was born two months after they bought their house and moved to AC. “Kwin’s age makes it easy to remember how long we’ve lived here. It’s been 19 years now.”

Bart is a CPA and, until recently, commuted to the financial district in San Francisco three days a week. “The pandemic taught us how to be creative, and Bart was productive working at home,” Kasama offers. She has also transitioned to working from home. “I love Zoom. I would present offers on Zoom, and meet with my clients on Zoom.” Bart recently left his career as a certified public accountant (CPA), and he now works with Kasama in real estate. Happily, Bart just received his real estate license, so he and Kasama work side by side. “We work really well together. We’re going to make a great team. I’m excited about that. It will truly be a family business. Kwin does a little bit to help me.”

After finishing his studies at Napa Valley Community College (NVC), Kwin plans to transfer to where he’s accepted at UC Campus or at San Jose State and major in computer science. Kasama’s younger son, Ari, is an American Canyon High School senior and wants to be a business major.

“Bart and I came from very humble beginnings. We grew up poor. We had to figure out ways to go to college and get grants. We tell our boys about it. They don’t have an allowance. If you don’t forget where you come from, then money will never be the reason for important decisions. Our kids are not demanding, and they are not into material things. I am really appreciative of their perspective.”

Kasama is also dedicated to helping American Canyon youth. “My first exposure was through my previous church. I because a certified leadership coach, and I was invited to speak to a group of youth who were going to be Christian camp counselors during the summer in this rustic place called Redwood Glen. That was where I realized that was my purpose. “I connected with the youth, and they were sharing their vulnerabilities and what they wanted in life, how they were told they wouldn’t materialize into anything. My heart just hurt because they deserved to discover their life purpose.”

“So I realized I’m supposed to be doing this body of work with the youth. I usually get emotional when I talk about this. On the 4th of July, I ran into Rodrick Sweeney, AC Parks and Rec Supervisor. We started chatting, and he said the Parks and Rec Dept. had started a youth program. Parks and Rec had hired a youth rec leader, but he passed away unexpectedly, and that message was left in my heart. I went back to Rodrick and explored the youth rec leader role. He hired me, and just like that, I became the Youth Coordinator for Parks and Rec in 2012. That was when my work with the youth took off.

I was working part-time for Parks and Rec. That role got me on American Canyon High School (ACHS) Campus. Beth Goff, who is an English teacher at the high school, was able to get me a classroom. That first group of kids was special to me. They became like family to me. During this time, my mom passed away, and those kids were there for me. They brought me balloons and handwritten messages about how I impacted their lives. “When we celebrated my mom’s life, the church was packed with kids who didn’t even know my mom. The kids all wore purple (my mom’s favorite color). Fast forward to now, I have cofounded ACHS Career Day. This is our tenth year, and we are planning a virtual event this year. I’m proud to report that Napa Valley Unified School District (NVUSD) adopted this program, where all the other high schools will also get to participate in Career Day.”