By Keo Xiong, MD Programs Manager
Photos Courtesy of AALEAD Staff
This year marks the 10th anniversary of Asian American LEAD’s expansion into Montgomery County, Maryland! We are excited to celebrate ten years of service to the many youth and families of Montgomery County Public Schools, and look forward to sharing with you the stories and successes of our partnership over the past years.
As we prepare to kick off programming next week at our nine middle and high school sites throughout Montgomery County, let’s take a moment to revisit our favorite top ten moments from the AALEAD Maryland 2015-2016 program year.
1. Annual Kick-off Picnic Celebration, October 16, 2015
Each October, youth and families celebrate the start of the new school and program year at our annual AALEAD MD kick-off picnic, where they have opportunities to meet and catch up with peers from different schools, participate in youth-led games and activities, and enjoy a large family meal together. Above, a youth tries to earn points on the skee ball machine designed and created by youth using basic office supplies.
2. Fright Fest and Film Night, October 30, 2015
What started as a small gathering two years ago to provide a safe evening for youth to go trick-or-treating together turned into a large fright fest and film night last year, complete with spooky treats and a spectacular costume contest. In attendance were four cats, Eeyore, a witch, a skeleton, two werewolves, a pumpkin, a detective, Robin Hood, a mime, a Heart and Seoul, and many AALEADers and other characters. Here, a youth poses for a photo in his Naruto costume.
3. Annual Holiday Party and Talent Showcase, December 18, 2015
Over 200 youth, families, and community members turned out to celebrate the winter holidays and cheer on youth in the annual AALEAD MD Holiday Party and Talent Showcase. Youth talents included K-pop (Korean pop) dances, singing, music composition using a mobile app, pen spinning, and instrumentals. We are always impressed with the many and varied talents of AALEAD youth, and this event truly highlights how supportive youth are towards one another. Above, three youth perform a song on the flute, saxophone, and clarinet. What’s YOUR talent?
4. OCA Youth Advocate Training, February 6, 2016
High school youth from our Washington, DC, Fairfax County, VA, and Montgomery County, MD programs participated in a day-long youth advocacy training hosted by OCA to learn about Asian Pacific American history, cross-racial collaborations, movements to end racial oppression, and how youth can be agents of change. Here, a youth helps develop a timeline of important events in Asian Pacific American history.
5. East Coast Asian American Student Union Conference, February 26-28, 2016
Eighteen high school youth, with staff, traveled from the DC metro area to Rutgers University in New Brunswick, NJ to attend the ECAASU conference, a yearly conference hosted by and for Asian American college students throughout the east coast that focuses on youth leadership and action. AALEAD youth are the only high school youth in attendance, and use this conference model to plan their own annual youth summit each summer. After such a long weekend together, these youth didn’t want to leave each other – it took them over an hour each in a parking lot in New Jersey when we were packing up and back in Maryland while youth waited to be picked up to properly say their goodbyes and see-you-laters to each other. Above, AALEAD youth attendees pose by the newly installed Rutgers “Revolutionary” sign.
6. Annual Spring Park Clean-up, April 16, 2016
Each spring, AALEAD youth participate in park clean ups at various sites throughout DC, MD, and VA at the same time. When asked what community service activity we should do each year, youth always suggest park clean-ups. Here, the #parkprotectors pose with the trash youth collected from a local park. How are YOU making a difference in your community?
7. Middle to High School Transition Support Series, Wheaton High School Tour, April 18, 2016
High school youth have an important role in AALEAD – they are leaders, role models, and mentors to our middle school youth. Each year, high school youth lead workshops for middle school youth to provide guidance through the middle-to-high school transition process. Some of our high school youth participated in panels during program time at the middle schools, while others invited middle school youth to their high schools to lead tours and information sessions. Here, Wheaton High School youth led a large group of middle school youth on a tour of their newly renovated school, shared experiences about their own transitions, and invited teachers to talk more about specific courses of study. The high school youth were so knowledgeable, confident, and professional – they embody leadership to the fullest extent!
8. Maryland Day at University of Maryland, College Park, April 29, 2016
Sheep, horses, cows, and goats on campus – who knew? AALEAD youth participated in the annual Maryland Day hosted by the University of Maryland, College Park campus to learn more about college and campus life. Youth worked in small teams to complete a scavenger hunt by engaging and interacting in activities throughout the campus. Above, a youth and her team were exploring the agriculture program and got to see the school farm’s animals up close.
9. Year-End Celebration and Senior Send-off, June 3, 2016
It is always a bittersweet time of year when we end our after-school program. This past year, 56 eighth grade youth transitioned out of middle school programs, and 31 twelfth grade youth graduated from high school. Although we are beyond excited to see youth continue moving up in their education, we can’t lie: we miss them terribly. Many eighth grade youth will continue with AALEAD programming in high school, and some graduates will still be involved in AALEAD through the Community College Mentoring Program, but for other youth, mostly the graduates, this was their last year officially enrolled in program. We are thankful for each and every youth and family that has given their time and commitment to AALEAD. We can’t wait to follow up with our graduates and tell the larger community all about the great things they are doing in their lives.
10. MD Summer Thrive Program, July 5 – August 4, 2016
Okay, so we’re cheating a little with this last one. We couldn’t pick just one favorite moment from our summer program so we’re highlighting the entire program. Fifty-three youth participated in MD Summer Thrive, a five-week long summer program focused on Global Citizenship. Youth worked in small teams to complete a series of project-based learning activities. They researched an issue or topic of importance, developed and facilitated a workshop about it for their peers, designed a mobile app that could address that problem, and created public service announcement videos to share with the larger community. At the end of the summer, youth celebrated and closed out the program with a full day at Six Flags amusement park. Since the summer program allows youth more time to be together, it is always difficult to end the summer when so many meaningful friendships have been developed. We are already planning for next summer’s program and look forward to more fun in the sun memories!
Thank you to everyone who made this past year a great success. In particular, thank you to all the youth, families, school staff, community members, and program staff who have helped create such a strong and meaningful AALEAD presence and network in Montgomery County, MD these past ten years. As we look ahead to another year of after-school, summer, and mentoring programs, we can’t help but look back on all the people who have made AALEAD what it is today, and all the great memories made along the way!
We would love to hear from you! Are you a former or current AALEAD participant, a family member, a former staff, volunteer, or intern, or a community member or school staff who has worked with AALEAD? Reach out to us. E-mail MD Programs Manager, Keo Xiong, at firstname.lastname@example.org and Neel Saxena, Development & Communications Director, at email@example.com. As we celebrate our ten years in Montgomery County, we want to know: what is YOUR favorite AALEAD memory?