AALEAD Origins: Rooted in our Past, Creating Our Future

By Neel Saxena, Executive Director
Photos Courtesy of Various Staff
Logo Courtesy of DC Programs Manager, Charles Kuo

Asian American LEADs orgins are rooted in the Columbia Heights neighborhood of Washington, DC where Sandy Dang, AALEAD’s founder, saw the unmet need in low-income Vietnamese refugee youth and made supporting these youth a reality through a strong vision and commitment and mentors and supporters empowering the organization along the way. Twenty years later, AALEAD continues to support low-income youth creating our future that has expanded to supporting 23 different Asian ethnic groups in DC, MD and VA and envisions a United States in which low-income and underserved Asian Pacific American youth, and youth of all backgrounds, are equipped with the tools and opportunities to define themselves and their own futures.


This year, AALEAD celebrate 20 years of supporting low-income APA youth and AALEAD’s programs will connecting to this milestone through our FY2018 Theme:

AALEAD Origins: Rooted in our Past, Creating Our Future

Some of AALEAD’s staff and youth provided their take on AALEAD Origins

“Our origins define us. Our origins contribute to our perspective. Our origins lead us. A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin, and culture, is like a tree without roots. In order to create the future we want to see, we have to know where we came from. As we go through this very reflective process/year, we also move forward. I am excited to see how our youth define their identities and pave the path for their futures.”
– AALEAD DC Programs Manager, Charles Kuo

“Origins makes me think of your original place, it’s where a someone comes from” –
– Henry Z., DC High School Program Youth

“It’s where you’ve started. It can also mean the center of something. For example, the center of a graph is (0,0); it’s basically where all four quadrants meet at one specific point. All four quadrants could be like aspects of someone’s life. The origin is where all the aspects of one’s life comes together, it is what makes you you.”
– Ellen G, DC High School Program Youth

“Your origins doesn’t have to be a place necessarily; I think of it as an idea, something you never forget. If you feel a bit lost, then your origins bring you back to what you believe is important.”
– DC Middle and High School Coordinator Stephanie Lim


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