By Dia Bui, DC Middle and High School Program Coordinator
Photos courtesy of Dia Bui
“This was the best experience ever!”
“The best day of my life!”
“I don’t want to leave!”
These are some of the resounding statements from our 18 youth who attended the East Coast Asian American Student Union (ECAASU) Conference at Rutgers University on February 26-28th. We traveled hundreds of miles to represent AALEAD, the only high school group at the collegiate conference. Our 18 youth from DC, MD, and VA spent a full weekend attending workshops covering topics from leadership development to addressing the fear of failure; from advocacy through the arts to education through world travel.
“Oh my goodness, the facilitator was so lit!“- AALEAD youth Ying’s reaction after attending a workshop
Translation: “The facilitator was quite knowledgeable and I’m inspired to learn more about the topic.”
It was easy to see how much AALEAD youth not only enjoyed the experience, but were ready to challenge themselves to grow beyond their comfort zones. With their customized AALEAD business cards in hand, the youth networked and formed relationships with Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) professionals, college students, and artists. The youth’s mission? To bring all of their knowledge, experience, and contacts back to DC to plan and coordinate the AALEAD 5th Annual APA Youth Summit on August 6, 2016.
The tradition to attend the ECAASU Conference began a few years ago when ECAASU was held at the George Washington University. It continued last year when nine AALEAD youth attended the conference at Harvard University. This year, AALEAD doubled the number of youth participation at ECAASU from nine to 18 with the support of youth-led community fundraising.
Our youth also had a chance to visit Princeton University, a premiere Ivy-League school, which was among the most popular experiences with the youth. One youth, Edward, said:
“I never thought about applying to Princeton before… I’m thinking about it now.”
This is the backbone of youth leadership development. Our young people have the opportunity to experience new levels of engagement, enrichment and empowerment. Despite being notoriously shy, an AALEAD youth shared how he felt supported by his fellow peers as he was among the first to introduce himself to workshop facilitators. Another youth talked about her fear of first impressions, especially being a high school student at a college event. She not only made new friends, but spoke about how she tried new approaches in communication. All of our youth went above and beyond what they thought they could accomplish in a new experience such as ECAASU. When asked about what they look forward to after ECAASU, many said they hope to create a safe and empowering space for other youth to feel that they, too, can go beyond their borders at the upcoming AALEAD Annual APA Youth Summit.
*Please find and view more pictures from AALEAD’s trip to ECAASU ’16 on our instagram @AALEAD