Farewell AALEAD

By Yonsoo Kang, Previous VA Middle Schools Program Coordinator
Photos Courtesy of AALEAD Staff


My dear AALEADers,

During my interview for the VA Middle School Coordinator position, then executive director, Surjeet, asked me, “This is a new position. Are you ok with creating two new after school programs?” I remember going against my typical cautiousness and answered, “Yes.” Very few times in my life have I had the courage to leap into something uncertain. Yet it turns out that accepting the challenge and the unknown was the best decision I made as an adult.

I came back to Virginia not really knowing what I wanted in my life. Was teaching exactly what I wanted to do? Should I try and get into the foreign policy think tanks? All I knew is that my biggest fear was finding myself in a cubicle a few years later and realizing then that I hated my job. My time at AALEAD surpassed all expectations. The work and people challenged me to be dive into taking on unfamiliar tasks. This was only possible because I knew I was in a positive, supportive environment.

My growth would not have been possible without the young folks I saw almost every day. You all are the reason why I want to work an extra hour or why I do not want to give up. You may think because you are small, young, or inexperienced that your voice should be less valued. I disagree. Youth have the strength, honesty, and kindness that distinguish them above the adults. The care and time they give to each other are unrivaled. Their near fanatical commitment to justice and fairness can probably make this world a better place.


My dear AALEADers,

You do not have to be the fastest, strongest, or smartest. However, promise yourself to never give up because you owe it to yourself. Keep learning and supporting one another. Push yourself and find that inner strength. You all have it. You just need to ask the right questions or be in the right situation to let it out. Remember, it is through uncomfortable situations where we grow the most. It is where we test our mettle to see what we are made of. And every time we push ourselves and feel we cannot go any further, our friends help us find that inner resilience.
It has been a wild two years filled with laughter, setbacks, AALEAD ball, food, tears, and cheers. What more could I ask for? I have grown personally and professionally beyond what I imagined. I will treasure you all and will leave for Philly a better and more courageous person than the person who first arrived at 1029 Vermont Ave.


“I will persist until I succeed. Always will I take another step. If that is no avail I will take another and, yet another. In truth, one step at a time is not too difficult… I know that small attempts, repeated, will complete any undertaking.”
– Og Mandino

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