By Antwoine Johnson, AALEAD Staff

Merriam Webster defines trust as the “belief that someone or something is reliable, good, honest, effective, etc.” It is something that is difficultly obtained but so easily lost. It may take months or years to obtain.

AALEAD staff have been meeting with our youth at Wheaton High School, once a week, for a lunch program. Although our time with them has been short, we’ve been able to work on trust through team building activities.  Last week, we decided to do an exercise including objects, blindfolds and voices. The students were asked to pair up. One member of the pair was then blindfolded and had to listen to the voice and direction of their partner in order to obtain objects that held point values. The winner of the competition was rewarded with a prize.

Students were able to learn what it means to really build a stronger relationship based off trust with a friend and to rely on them to guide them through the tough situations, especially when you see no end in sight or, in this case, when you do not see anything at all.

Please stay tuned for more Wheaton updates!

By Francine Gorres, AALEAD Staff
Photos Courtesy of AALEAD Staff and Students, Chris Gamboa, CAAM Staff, and friendly residents and tourists of San Francisco

This past weekend AALEAD participated in a program called “Young Historians, Living Histories” organized by the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center, Smithsonian Affiliations and Center for Asian American Media (CAAM). This project allowed underserved middle and high school youth across the country to deepen their understanding of the Asian Pacific American experience and enabled them to use the foundations of community storytelling and digital technologies to unearth the histories in their community.  AALEAD was one of many Smithsonian Affiliates that participated in this project last summer and had the opportunity to fly out one staff member and one student representative to San Francisco, California to screen the projects at the 32nd Annual CAAM Film Festival!

Scene 1 – The Golden Gate Bridge

For Liza and I, this was our first time to travel to the West Coast and to get a “taste” of sunny California. From the minute we got off of the 8 hour flight, we commuted everywhere we went. We rode the BART and the Muni buses through the city and headed straight to the Golden Gate Bridge. For a brief moment, Liza and I soaked it all in. We were just amazed that we were standing in front of the iconic bridge. It was truly breath taking!

After spending some time at the Bridge, we took the Muni bus to Ghirardelli Square and visited the famous Boudin’s at the Fisherman’s Wharf to meet our sourdough friends.  We ended our first day with a celebratory Ghirardelli ice cream!

Scene 2 – The Screening

Rise and shine! Saturday was our big day…The Screening. Before meeting guests at the New People Cinema for the screening, Liza and I gathered with other Smithsonian Affiliates for breakfast. From Ohio to North Carolina to Arkansas, youth gathered from different parts of the country to meet one another and to talk about their videos and projects. It was amazing to see the youth engaged in dialogues about Asian American history and to share how this project made an impact on themselves as Asian Americans.

Shortly after, we walked over to the New People Cinema to view the different projects and then went to a nice reception for the young filmmakers. At the reception, all of the Smithsonian Affiliates and organizations received a “Certificate of Appreciation”. Woohoo! Go AALEAD!

After the reception, Liza and I decided to change and explore the city via trolley! When we boarded the trolley, it seemed a bit intimidating to be riding on the side of the trolley, but also such an adventure. Liza decided to stand inside of the trolley, while I rode on the side to get the “real” San Francisco experience. We went up and down the hills, passed streets overlooking marinas and boats, and even saw people gathered outside for a St. Patrick’s Day Parade. It was super fun! Our final stop was at the Fisherman’s Wharf to visit the sea lions.

Scene 3 – Meeting the Brahmin Bulls

After a full day, Liza and I decided to immerse ourselves into the CAAMFest experience and bought tickets to see Brahmin Bulls. In this film about an Indian father and son, we see the complexities that exist in their relationship. From living up to high expectations, seeking love, and learning how to talk to parents, it featured a lot of different South Asian American experiences that exist today. The film even featured the story of the widowed father that is often unseen or unheard. It was such a great film, and Liza noticed that the main character, Sid also known as Sendhil Ramamurthy, was a star in one of her favorite TV shows “Beauty and the Beast” on CW.  Sendhil plays the role of Gabriel Lowen, an assistant district attorney. She was excited to meet him and even got a picture with him!

Scene 4 – Epilogue

Throughout the whole trip, Liza and I were able to see so many new things together and had some very special conversations about life, career, school, and some of her favorite TV shows.  I asked her what she thought of the trip and what she liked the most. Here is what she had to say, “The trip was life-changing. I had a fun time going everywhere in San Francisco and participating in CAAMFest.  I even learned a few geography lessons flying over different states. When we got up in front of everyone to speak at the screening, I was really nervous at first. I had been at other speaking opportunities with AALEAD before, but not like this. After we shared our films it was just..awesome to feel like wow, they bought tickets to see our films. It felt good to see that people actually cared to come. And then when I saw producers and actors stand up to talk about Brahmin Bulls, it was like man..I was just up there like them earlier today! Amazing. There’s not one moment that was my favorite. I really liked everything. Who knows maybe I’ll get into film one day!” And I…could not have said it better myself. As a coordinator, it was a special moment to watch it all click and make sense.  I was grateful to just be there to hear and see it happen.

Credits and Special Thank You’s

Special thank you to Konrad Ng, Robert Johnson, Caroline Mah, Gina Inocencio, and all of the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center representatives for helping to coordinate this project! Thank you to Stephen Gong, Donald Young, Hardeep Jandu, and CAAM for helping to make this trip and project possible! Thank you to Southwest Airlines for your kind generosity in getting students to San Francisco. Thank you to Wyman Lee and Amy Hosseinnian from DC APA Film for all of your help and film-making guidance you gave to students during the project. Thank you to Surjeet and the AALEAD Board for all of your support.  It has truly been an honor to witness the success of all of our incredible youth from around the country and to share this special experience with Liza.

Staff Spotlight: And-One is in the House!

By David Oh, AALEAD Development & Communications Intern
Photos Courtesy of AALEAD Staff

Extra! Extra! Read all about it! Today, we bring you the latest Staff Spotlight on one of our MD Middle School Program Coordinators, Antwoine Johnson!  We have all the juicy details that will keep you on your toes. Read the Q&A below to get the scoop on Antwoine! :)

Q: How has AALEAD impacted your life?
A: AALEAD has definitely allowed me to stretch myself and add to my character by forcing me to interact with people of different backgrounds, stories, and religions. It has broadened my view of the world, which is a consequence of it being my first full time job. In addition, it has increased my passion for youth and the Asian American community as a whole.

Q: What impact does your role as a Coordinator have on our youth?
A: I think that, first, it shows that there are people outside there demographic that care for them.  Also, that there are adults that can relate to them and show that they care for them. I also like to think I have had a hand in refining them as people, giving them pointers on life at times, school, character, and leadership that will last long after AALEAD is over for them.

Q:What are some things that have surprised you about AALEAD?
A: The atmosphere of AALEAD as a whole, employees, students and parents. It has a very warm, family environment. It is very comforting to go into a place where there is no sense of tension.  That is surprising because I always hear my friends talk about their jobs and it seems my job is unique.

Q:What are some highlights you can point out while working with AALEAD?
A: So many!  The first day I came in, Keo and Melor [our two other MD Middle School Program Coordinators] decorated my desk, and that was awesome!  Starting my program at Newport Mill Middle School was very good as well as starting the once-a-week lunch program at Wheaton High School and being able to get to know and help out the students are Argyle Middle School and Loiederman Middle School.  I found it a great experience to have the chance to meet Parkland Middle School, Eastern Middle School and Einstein High School kids during larger events and field trips. Basically, every day at AALEAD is a highlight. Even our Staff m=Meetings are highlights because I get to see my coworkers! That is saying a lot because some people do not like meetings–but I love them!

Q:If you could choose a song that best describes your work at AALEAD, what would it be?
A: Hmm, let me think.  ”Call Me Maybe”–especially the first line of the chorus, because that is how I started relationships with my students! “Hey, I just met you, and this is crazy.  So here’s my number.  Call me maybe.”

Q:What was your childhood nickname?
A: Wow, I have so many.  My step dad use to call me Johnson and in college they use to call me Ha’san.  But then when I started going to my church they called me, And-One, Taewon, and Scantron.  And-one was given to me because my friend’s pastor, who was Korean, could not say my name correctly called me that and so everyone at my friend’s church called me that.  Taewon is short for Ahn Taewon. My friend’s mom told me my first name sounded like a Korean name so she began calling me Taewon.  Scantron was simply because my name sounded like it. My friend at church likes to give me names that rhyme with my original first name and this one was the most popular.

Q:PC or Apple?
A: PC!  It is hard to play “League of Legends” on an Apple!
Thanks for reading! Remember to check back on our blog weekly for program and staff updates. Follow us: Twitter and Instagram (@aalead). Like us on Facebook (Asian American LEAD)!

MS Youth Council Meeting

By Antwoine Johnson, AALEAD Staff
Photos by Youth Council Member

This past Saturday, the Asian American LEAD (AALEAD) Middle School Youth Council came together to represent their peers in the organization and planning for Fiesta Asia and the Youth Media Project.

Fiesta Asia is an annual street festival where different Asian organizations come and celebrate Asian and Asian American cultures, increasing the awareness and knowledge of the people who come to the event. AALEAD will have a booth at the event, where our youth decided to have trivia questions and prices in order to teach people facts and to motivate them to answer questions about the countries being represented by AALEAD such as Sir Lanka and the Phillipines. Each middle school will be coming up with questions to assist in this trivia game.

For the Youth Media Project, the students  ironed out a script for the short video about identity and then hashed out a storyboard, using the skills and techniques given to them by Amy and Wyman from DC APA Film, Inc..  Stay tuned for more updates on the video project!


AALEADers Participate in a Media Workshop!

By Antwoine Johnson, AALEAD Staff
Photos by Melor Suhaimi, AALEAD Staff

This past Tuesday, the AALEAD Middle School Youth Council and some of our high school youth had the chance to participate in a film making workshop with  Amy and Wyman, videographers from the DC Asian Pacific American Film, Inc.  Middle and high school AALEAD students came to the MD Office and were taught how to take different angles, use lighting for different effects and create different emotions in a scene.  AALEADers then had a chance to play around with the cameras and lights, putting what they just learned to practice.

Our workshop hosts also addressed the art of creating a scene that is visually appealing in such a way that it does not shock the eye. For example, Amy stressed the importance of not going from a wide shot straight into a tight shot. It was an informative time for both the Council and AALEAD staff.

Our Middle School Youth Council reconvened after the workshop and began to plan how they would begin to create their videos for their projects.  Our youth are able to participate in the video project thanks to support provided by the Gandhi Brigade. We are using media to discuss Asian American issues with our youth. The project will be made up of several short 3-minute videos to address topics as stereotypes, Asian American identity, and living as a person, outside the stereotype. Our youth are enjoying engaging in some hard hitting introspection and conveying who they are to a world that may not always understand them as a person. Stay tuned for our video projects!

A huge shout out and thank you to Amy and Wyman from DC APA Film!

Coming Up…AALEAD’s 15th Annual Dinner!

We can’t believe we are just 4 weeks out from our 15th Annual Dinner on Wednesday, March 26, 2014! We are very excited to celebrate nearly 16 years of Asian American LEAD’s (AALEAD) accomplishments at our event at the Silver Spring Civic Building in Downtown Silver Spring with our community.

Let’s take a quick peek at two Annual Dinner highlights from the past two years. Check out the video clips and photos below for a quick blast to the past! *Details for this year’s 15th Annual Dinner at the end of the post!*

13th Annual Dinner – AALEAD Alumni Speaker Zefanya

14th Annual Dinner – AALEAD Alumni Speaker Lan-Anh (snippet)

14th Annual Dinner – AALEAD Board Speaker Siu

Photos from Past Annual Dinners!

15th Annual Dinner – Wednesday, March 26, 6:30 p.m.

We are so excited for an evening of networking and celebrating AALEAD’s accomplishments. Guests will kick off the night with a networking reception  (hors d’oeuvres provided by Hollywood East Cafe), hear stories and testimonies from speakers, and then mingle with some of the DC Metropolitan area’s top community, business and government leaders while enjoying dinner by Szechuan Delight. We are also happy to announce that our host this year will be Ms. Kathy Park from ABC7/News Channel 8! For travel instructions and a map of the Civic Building, click here.


ONLINE Donation Page. Please indicate you are purchasing a ticket/table for this event.
CHECK Written out to “Asian American LEAD” and sent to 2100 New Hampshire Ave., NW, Washington, DC 20009.

Individual Ticket: $125
Former AALEAD Staff/Alumni: $50
Table of Ten: $1,000 (or $100 per person)
Click here for Sponsorship Packages

Contact: Sharon Choi, Development & Communications Manager
(202) 884-0322 x 104

By Tina Ngo, AALEAD Staff
Photos Courtesy of Tina Ngo, AALEAD Staff

Last week, the AALEAD Mentoring Advisory Council (MAC) met for the second time! After everyone had a chance to settle in, the meeting began with a brief discussion on the role of mentors and how to maximize your time with your mentor. This portion of the meeting was led by Bhadon, an AALEAD student who has been matched with his mentor for almost three years. Since MAC is composed of youth who are both new to and familiar with the Mentoring Program, many of the newer students had questions, while the veteran students were eager to share their insights. This part of the session set a really great tone for what the remainder of the year will look like as youth were engaged and excited to talk about their experiences with their peers.

After everyone’s questions were answered, students began to jot down suggestions about events that they would like to have later in the year. From writing about the importance of holding a park clean-up and keeping our Earth clean to listing potential universities to check out for a college visit, youth were enthusiastic about taking ownership of their program and had many wonderful ideas. Youth then volunteered with our younger Thomson AALEADers! They helped read to the little ones, participated in a group activity, and assisted some of the students with their homework. Volunteering with the younger AALEADers is the part of the day that the MAC students look forward to the most as many of them have siblings who are still enrolled in our after-school programs, and many of the MAC youth themselves also attended our Thomson Elementary School Program when they were younger.

We are so proud of our MAC students who continue to challenge themselves and play an active role in making our community a better place. Until next time!

Message from the ED: February Update!

It’s been a busy, albeit snow-filled, month as we lead up to our 15th Annual Dinner on March 26!  I truly hope to see many of you there as we celebrate AALEAD’s past, present, and future.

As some of you have seen, AALEAD has the honor of being part of the Giving Library.  The Laura and John Arnold Foundation has generously featured us and created the videos about our work.  Our hope is that being part of the Giving Library will broaden the network of people who know about AALEAD!  And if you log in to the Giving Library website and share our video by Friday, the Arnold Foundation will contribute $5 to AALEAD for each share!  Thank you to all of you who have already helped.

I also want to take this moment to give thanks to AALEAD’s Board.  Our Board members are all incredibly caring and hardworking individuals who volunteer endless hours of time for AALEAD.  This past weekend, we had our yearly Board retreat and it was such a productive and energizing time.  We capped off the day with a celebration with staff.  It is a wonderful thing for all of us to be doing work we believe in deeply with great people who help to make it even more meaningful.  Thank you, Board members, for being a critical part of our AALEAD community!


By Melor Suhaimi, AALEAD Staff
Video by Melor Suhaimi, AALEAD Staff

On Thursday, February 13th, David, our Development and Communications Intern reported on our MD MS AALEADers hard at work making Vietnamese Banh Mi and planning for their Vietnamese water puppet shows. Leading up to this day, Eastern and Loiederman AALEADers learned about Vietnam and a traditional art form of water puppetry. Our Vietnamese AALEADers even shared their experiences in Vietnam. A few of our AALEAD youth were born in Vietnam and many were born here in the United States and has visited the country. From both perspectives, it was interesting to hear what they knew about Vietnam. Youth discussed how jam-packed the roads of Vietnam are with motorcycles taking over every lane to the many delicious Vietnamese dishes, like Pho and Banh Mi!

As youth began planning their Vietnamese water puppet shows, ideas for a theme were being thrown around and discussed. One group decided on recreating the Chinese zodiac story, which was mentioned in a previous program day a couple of weeks ago. Another group decided on doing a similar story to Finding Nemo with having the moral of the story as, “Never give up!” All youth worked together collaboratively and creatively to design their water puppets as well. Youth were given limited supplies, but the puppets turned out great. Below is a video of photos and clips of a few of the group performances of the Vietnamese water puppet shows from Loiederman and Eastern Middle Schools.


By Francine Gorres, AALEAD Staff
Photos Courtesy of AALEAD Staff and Students

This past weekend AALEAD High School Students participated in one the most historic events involving Asian American college youth, the East Coast Asian American Student Union (ECAASU) Conference. You may have heard about AALEAD participating in ECAASU last year, where we brought a few of our AALEAD youth to New York City to participate in the Conference at Columbia University.  This year, the ECAASU Conference was hosted by a group of colleges in the Washington D.C. area and had over 1,000 attendees registered!

So why was this year so special for our students?

This year we had AALEAD students represented in several different aspects of this Conference. From volunteers, to participants, to members of the National Board, it was truly great to see our youth engaged in different levels. We even ran into AALEAD Alumni at the Conference!  On the volunteer side, 13 AALEAD youth, participated and assisted ECAASU Directors with various tasks. They helped set up for workshops, assisted with crowd control, distributed lunches to attendees, and even helped sell some t-shirts. On the participant side, 4 AALEAD youth were represented in ECAASU’s newly launched High School Leadership Ambassadors Program where they are able to connect with other Asian American youth from New York and discuss Asian American issues. And finally, we had one AALEAD student represented on the ECAASU National Board who had been working so very hard with the ECAASU Directors to make this conference possible.

As I watched the students engage with facilitators, speakers, and other college students, it was truly remarkable to watch our students take full advantage of the opportunity and begin to fit in with the crowd.  We had two main goals for this field trip: 1. Give AALEAD students the opportunity to experience College Student Leadership, and 2. Allow students to process and reflect on how they can take this experience back to plan their Annual Summer APA Youth Summit.

In the morning, I challenged each of the students to at least chat with some of the workshop facilitators and to get their contact information in-case we wanted to invite them to the Youth Summit. Each student participated in one workshop and included topics such as the Bamboo Ceiling, Asian Americans and Law, Mental Health, Leadership, Passions vs. Career, Hepatitis B, and Asian American Identity.  I’m proud to say that every AALEAD student spoke to a facilitator and over half of our students asked and received business cards!

Out of the 18 students that attended ECAASU, 15 students had never attended an Asian American conference of this magnitude. Majority of these young students are sophomores, very quiet, come from immigrant families, and are only beginning to scrape the surface of their leadership potential. Our hope is that with opportunities like this and more experiential learning, students will become more exposed, inspired, and will attain some important skills that will make them successful students, leaders, and ultimately better people.

Special thank you to the 2014 ECAASU Conference Committee, especially Christina Bui, Annie and Bonnie Yan, Aneena Sin, and Linh Tran, for being so hospitable to our high school youth and for making this conference possible! You ladies rock!

On a warm sunny day like this, I think a jumping photo is in order to celebrate the success of the 2014 ECAASU Conference, Washington D.C.