By Chelsea Iorlano, Development & Communications Associate
Photos Courtesy of Chelsea Iorlano
Each day, the youth we serve come to AALEAD Programs and give. They give their attention, time, respect, appreciation, energy, and support. Each day in programs, youth give of themselves and create the vibrant, nurturing, and strong community that is AALEAD. AALEAD Programs could not provide the stable community and safe space that they do without the youth committing to their programs and giving their all. After a whole year of giving, AALEAD youth come together each year and celebrate the culmination of their work at the AALEAD Holiday Parties.
To wrap up an exciting year of expansion, AALEAD celebrated across all three regions we serve with the DC, VA, and MD Holiday Parties. Last week was busy, as staff supported and youth led much of the planning and preparation for back to back (to back!) celebrations. From designing creative activities and games, to creating decorations, writing scripts to practicing performances, AALEADers from elementary through to high school were busy putting into practice the leadership, communication, and organization skills they learn throughout the year to help plan successful holiday parties.
In DC, the middle and high school youth displayed strong leadership and care for the elementary school youth, leading the younger youth through activities and passing out a special holiday gift to each elementary school youth at the end of the party. The DC Holiday Party showcased a video, produced in part by a DC high school youth, that explored “the spirit of giving” with elementary, middle, and high school youth reflecting and sharing their thoughts on the significance of community and giving back.
In VA, high school youth led the entire program, taking turns as emcees and speaking in clear voices marked by confidence and enthusiasm. At the end of the party, youth gathered at the front of the room onstage to kick-off a sing-along session, encouraging other youth who were more shy or timid to join in. Every face was smiling as youth led us through the lyrics: Because I’m happy! Clap along if you feel like happiness is the truth!
MD closed the holiday celebrations with a bang. Each year youth prepare, audition, and perform in the MD Holiday Party Talent Show, and this year did not disappoint. From singing to pen-spinning, dancing to composing music, the MD youth brought energy, laughter, and joy to the holiday party and shared with everyone who attended.
2015 has been a whirlwind of a year for AALEAD. We have expanded our programs, expanded our staff, and because of these efforts, we have expanded our reach and our ability to impact youth in need of support. Seeing all of the youth, families, and community members at each party put into perspective the power of our programs, and the power of our youth and their leadership. As staff, we were able to reflect and learn from our youth in thinking about how giving and receiving gifts is less about what the gift is and more about reminding youth they are cared for and special; how performing onstage is less about talent and more about bravery and leadership; and how the end of the year is not so much a conclusion as it is a beginning of the next, most exciting part of the journey yet. We can’t wait to see what our youth will accomplish in 2016!
A special thank you to our AALEAD staff for supporting our youth at the Holiday Parties, and throughout the year, and to our Board Members who attended each Holiday Party to join in supporting and celebrating our youth!
Thank you to PricewaterhouseCoopers, Board Member Nina Un, Deloitte ABRG, Sophia Ni, Taiwanese Presbyterian Church of Washington, House of Transformation Ministries, Christian Oh and supporting organizations, and the DC Mayor’s Office on Asian and Pacific Islander Affairs for graciously donating holiday gifts for our elementary school youth.
We would also like to extend a warm thank you to our special guests who attended the MD Holiday Party, Mr. Vikrum Mathur, on behalf of Montgomery County Councilmember Roger Berliner, and MD State Delegate Kumar Barve.