By Nikki Febrer, MD Summer Programs Intern
Photos Courtesy of AALEAD Staff
It’s hard to believe five weeks have passed since the start of Maryland’s Summer Thrive Program. In their final week, youth dedicated their time to working on their PSA videos and poster app challenges. Although no blood, sweat, or tears were actually shed, there was no denying the amount of hard work and effort put forth when each group presented their final projects. I was impressed and awed by their ability to think creatively as global citizens- the overarching goal and theme of this year’s program. As the last day of program neared an end, youth were able to reflect on their time with AALEAD as “yearbooks” were passed around and signed, personal certificates handed out, and a final closing video played, showcasing themselves in a compilation of memorable, “aww”-worthy moments.
Earlier that week, as I worked on the video and my final presentation, I, too, couldn’t help but look back at my journey with AALEAD. Before programs began, I wasn’t quite sure what was in store for me, and was bewildered the first day I walked into a school gym filled with middle and high schoolers. Luckily for me, I had the wonderful, passionate, and upbeat Maryland staff to show me the ropes, and I can’t thank them enough for being so welcoming and supportive from day one.
Overall, my time with AALEAD was a rewarding and memorable experience. I had the opportunity to engage with a diverse group of youth who taught me a lot about myself and what AALEAD is truly all about, as I got to know them on a personal level or watch them thrive in the work that they did.
Although summer programs have come to an end, I know that the youth’s journey doesn’t stop there. With the new school year just around the corner, and the leadership and critical thinking skills they have developed, I know that they will be armed and ready to tackle brand new challenges and opportunities that come their way.
As for me, there were many valuable lessons I learned through AALEAD— for example, “not giving up so quickly” when challenges seem frustratingly impossible to overcome, and learning how to work around a challenge from a different angle. Another was the importance of setting aside time for reflections when it comes to processing floods of information or when powering through a long, busy day. I even experienced firsthand what it means to step out of your comfort zone to find your voice and develop the confidence needed to take on leadership roles. And while these takeaways range broadly, they share a common ground in helping me thrive as an individual as I move forward in my future.
And so the journey continues. I’m so glad I got the chance to work with such a remarkable group of people— thank you AALEAD for a wonderful summer filled with fun, love, and excitement!