Rok-A-Long Foundation was created by a group of childhood friends from Vallejo, CA, who came together in the 1980s. Music remained a unifying bond for them, first providing the backdrop for their breakdancing group, in which they named themselves “Rok-A-Long Kids”, then later as the Premier DJ Group, where they provided music for countless events in the community. The group remained close throughout the decades as their families grew. Along the way, they lost four dear friends: Frank Cardenas, who died in a car accident, and his younger brother Jesse, who passed away from cancer; Dion Datu, who died of a heart attack; and Chris Lastrella, who died in a car accident. In their memories, Rok-A-Long has united and evolved once again to form Rok-A-Long Foundation.
Grace Cardenas Leal, President
With a Masters of Science in Industrial/Organizational Psychology from Saint Mary's College of California, Grace has over 20 years of experience in higher education administration, academic advising and career development. Prior to her work in higher education, Grace served as a Cultural Commissioner to the City of Vallejo and was awarded by the Chambers of Commerce for her community service while working for Filipino Advocates for Justice (formerly known as Filipinos for Affirmative Action) as Site Coordinator for the Asian Sisters In Action (ASIA) program in Oakland and Union City to provide after-school programming for at-risk adolescent youths. This inspired Grace to focus on higher education access for first-generation/underserved populations.
With a commemorative honor in her name, The Dean Grace Cardenas Award, recognizes a staff member at Saint Mary’s College each year who embodies exceptional student service. Grace has spoken regionally and nationally on topics related to diversity and building sustainable programs to help students find meaningful purpose and direction in their lives.
Grace has also held directorship positions at California State University, Monterey Bay and Humboldt State University. Now at the University of Nevada, Reno, Grace serves as the University’s pre-professional advisor to students aspiring to become our nation’s leading healthcare providers and lawyers and is a member of the Admissions Evaluation Committee for the UNR School of Medicine. Faculty advisor to the Pre-Physician Assistant Student Organization on campus, she coordinates the annual Battle of the Brains competition to inspire pre-health club members to not only be academically superior, but to also cultivate a worldly mindset in their personal development.
Grace dedicates her professional aspirations to the memories of her two younger brothers, Frank and Jesse Cardenas whose promising lives were abruptly taken at the brink of their University start at the Academic of Art College, S.F., and Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, respectively. Regarded as the “Ate” (older sister) to Rok-A-Long members, Grace shares a rare sisterhood and love to her Rok-A-Long “Adings” (younger brothers) having witnessed their growth, accomplishments and rise to one of the Bay Area’s premier DJ group in the 1980-90’s since their childhood in Vallejo, California. Her tutelage - as all know her to be - is to be grateful for our time on this earth, live it righteously to the fullest while imprinting generational influences through our God-given talents and gifts to affect positive changes in self, family and community.
Personally, Grace holds a deep appreciation for creativity, music, nature hikes, photography and meditation and enjoys spending time with her parents, husband Fred, daughter Jean Tolentino, son-in-law Tatsuya Nakajima and her two dogs, Luna and Max. Having lived in Hawaii, Japan, Canada, Alaska, California and now in Nevada, Grace is eager to see the spiritual workings of her brothers through scholarship of our community’s next generation of leaders.
Marianne Sapiandante, Secretary
Amy Marshall, Treasurer