By Bhadon Shalakin, Mentoring Program Intern
Photos Courtesy of Surjeet Ahluwalia, AALEAD Executive Director

**Check out the video on this White House link at 38:29 to see Bhadon ask his question to the President!

Bhadon is a former student and current Mentoring Program Intern. We are so proud of him and hope you enjoy hearing about his experience at President Obama’s Town Hall on the “My Brother’s Keeper” Initiative!

Yesterday, I had the honor of attending the President’s Town Hall on the “My Brother’s Keeper” initiative. The day started off with warm welcomes and introductions between my fellow AALEADers and me. We made our way towards the Walker-Jones Education Campus, where the event was held. With everyone looking their best, it definitely was a fashionable event. After a brief wait in the security line, we made our way to our seats.

The first part of the event included a panel discussion between a student, a Board of Education member, Randall L. Stephenson (the CEO of AT&T), and James H. Shelton, III (the Deputy Secretary of Education). The panel was very insightful and focused on issues which are currently plaguing students from California to DC. After the endorsement of the initiative from NBA Commissioner, Adam Silver, we took a brief break. After the intermission, Chris Paul, an NBA player for the Los Angeles Clippers, came out to introduce President Obama. The President then talked about his plans for success for men of color and also shared his hopes that this initiative would be adopted across the country.

When the President was done with his speech, he opened up the floor for questions from the audience. I thought about asking him a question, but was very nervous. After a few questions were asked, I worked up enough courage to raise my hand. He turned around, looked me in my eyes, and pointed to me while saying, “The young man in the corner with the glasses.” I was in disbelief and had a million thoughts running through my head. As a proud Washingtonian, I asked him a question about a topic that means a lot to me: statehood for the District of Columbia. He immediately smiled his iconic smile and responded with: “I’m in DC. So I am for it.”

With a smile on my face for the rest of the event, I was greeted by strangers that thanked me for asking my question and for representing DC. It truly was one of my best and favorite moments as an AALEADer, and I am so thankful that I was able to attend this great event.

Staff Spotlight: Get to Know My!

By Heein Choi, Development & Communications Intern
Photos courtesy of AALEAD Staff

Check out our spotlight with our DC Middle & High School Program Coordinator—My Nguyen!

Q: What is your role at AALEAD and how long have you been working with this organization for?
A: I am the DC Middle & High School Program Coordinator. I have been with the organization for 5 months.

Q: What is a typical day like in your program?
A: A typical day in my program: students would come in, they have 5 minutes to unwind and catch up while we wait for the rest of the students to arrive. Then we open with an ice breaker, followed by announcements/shout outs. After that, we have a fun team building game or a “get to know you” activity because there’s always something new to learn about someone! Then we transition into the day’s curriculum or lesson as the last part of our program.

Q: What has been your best experience working with AALEAD?
A: My best experience working with AALEAD is seeing the students grow into their abilities and transform into leaders.

Q: What do you think is the most important aspect of AALEAD?
A: A sense of belonging.

Q: Outside of working for AALEAD, what are your hobbies?
A: I enjoy reading in my spare time if I’m not indulging in a marathon on Netflix. I also like to explore the various museums DC has to offer.

Q: What goals do you set for yourself daily?
A: Let the busyness of work stay at work and just take some time at the end of the day to relax and meditate, getting adequate sleep, and working out.

Q: If I wasn’t afraid…I would _____.
A: I would be a rapper, ready to drop a mix tape!

Q: What are you most passionate about?
A: Being the agent of change, making a difference in the world.

Q: If you could describe your time at AALEAD in one word it would be what, and why did you pick that word?
A: Active. All the coordinators are always in constant motion going to programs and being vigilant with students.
Affable. We have a friendly staff where anyone can approach us for questions.

Q: If you could give one sentence on advice on how to live life, what would it be?
A: Keep your courage up and it will keep you up.

It was a pleasure to get to know My better! Like us on Facebook (AALEAD) and follow us on Instagram (@AALEAD) and Twitter (@AALEAD) for daily updates!

By Alex Neeley, DC Elementary School Program Intern
Photos Courtesy of Alex Neeley

With Week 3 in the books, we are already halfway through at the DC Elementary School Summer Program. This week, the 5th and 6th graders of the Tiger Class continued to develop and format their first issue of the AALEAD newspaper.  With the help of Miss Paulina, the class divided their newspaper duties into two groups. While Team One reviewed and voted on drawing and writing submissions from all of our summer students, Team Two worked diligently on Publisher to format the newspaper for its final print. Expect the first edition of the “Summer with AALEAD” newspaper to hit stands in the coming days!

Also this week, our teaching assistant, Mr. Dustin, led a Culture workshop on the Maori war dance known as the Haka. The Lion and Tiger classes pounded on their chests and stomped their feet as they learned new intimidation tactics to strike fear in opponents.

The week concluded with field trips for everybody! On Thursday, the Tiger Class went to the Harry Thomas Sr. Pool for a much needed cool down. On Friday, the Lion and Tiger classes attended to the Newseum, while the younger Dragon and Pandas classes went to the National Building Museum. At the Newseum, our AALEADers were tasked with a scavenger hunt that helped them learn about important events in world history and how the journalists of the day presented these events. In addition, the scavenger hunt involved several photo challenges, including selfies with Summer Interns Laura and Alex!

Remember to check back next week, as our young AALEADers prepare their final projects for the summer and take a trip to Six Flags!

By Keo Xiong, AALEAD Staff
Photos Courtesy of AALEAD Staff

When you are feeling down, extremely excited, or any range of emotions in-between, who do you immediately share your feelings with? Best friends? Parents? Siblings? Coaches? This week in Summer Kinect, AALEAD middle and high school youth focused on strengthening support groups through various activities and events.

To kick off the week’s activities, Brad Becker, a professional therapist, led an introductory workshop about mental health and therapy. In both small and large groups, AALEADers talked about important people in their lives who make up their support groups, including childhood friends, parents, counselors, teachers, significant others, and siblings.

We followed up Brad’s workshop with youth-led activities. One group of AALEADers, Team Fierce, focused on a problem common among their peers: stress. To deal with stress, this group taught their peers how to make their own stress balls using balloons and flour. AALEAD youth had a great time making and proudly showed off their stress balls to staff and friends.

Another group of AALEADers taught their peers about troublesome feelings and explored how to cope with and express these feelings in healthy and nondestructive ways. They practiced breathing exercises; wrote a letter expressing not-so-great feelings, which they then tore up in an act of relief; and participated in teambuilding activities through music and dance.

To close out the week’s activities, AALEADers travelled to Arlington to see an improv comedy show and engage in team- and self-building workshops led by staff at The Comedy Spot. Improv, short for improvisation, is a live theatrical performance where actors create scenes and play games on the spot, often engaging audience members. Actors in improv groups must rely on their group members to make their shows successful. By knowing each other’s habits, personalities, sense of humor, abilities, and strengths, improv actors feed off of and build upon one another’s energies, storylines, and ideas to create a seamless story or scene. The skills of comedy improvisation include teamwork, trust, listening, focus, communication, overcoming obstacles, and creative solutions to problems, which actors at The Comedy Spot helped AALEADers explore and improve upon within their small groups and as individuals. Almost every youth had the opportunity to be on stage and play improv games in front of their peers, and everyone had a great time laughing with one another.

We had a fantastic week at Summer Kinect and look forward to spending the next and final two weeks together. Special thanks to The Comedy Spot and Brad for facilitating thoughtful, engaging workshops for AALEAD youth, and to the youth in Teams Fierce and Hungry8s for leading informative activities for their peers.

To learn more about The Comedy Spot, please visit

By Tina Ngo, AALEAD Staff
Photos Courtesy of AALEAD Staff

Every Wednesday, the middle and high school youth in Asian American LEAD’s (AALEAD) Mentoring Advisory Council (MAC) meet with our rising 6th graders to discuss various topics and issues that they may encounter as they transition into middle school. Two weeks ago, AALEADers met for the very first time and participated in fun team-building activities while learning more about leadership. Read more about the first MAC Transition workshop here!

Last week, AALEADers came together to learn more about the various academic resources offered in middle school. After getting together in small groups, they shared what they think it means to be successful in school and in life. Each group was then given a scenario about a student who was dealing with different challenges in school. They all had to make up a skit about what resources the student should use and how the student could actively participate in finding a solution for his/her problems. The creativity was definitely flowing as AALEADers worked together on their scripts and eventually performed their imaginative, yet pragmatic plays! Youth then reconvened as a larger group to discuss strategies for time management and having more independence in middle school. Our younger students really look up to their older peers who have been doing a great job mentoring them and answering all of their questions.

Yesterday, AALEAD youth talked about what diversity means to them. Students shared insightful thoughts and began to open up as they discussed different qualities that make people unique and why it’s important to be accepting of others, regardless of their backgrounds. Youth were then given a scenario about a new student at school who was made fun of because he/she was different, and all of the groups had to come up with skits and solutions. As each group performed their plays, they all touched on different resources that were discussed last week. When it came time for the group discussion, all of the younger students understood why diversity is important in our world today and knew exactly who they should go to for help. The older AALEAD youth were especially proud of the younger students as they have already learned so much since the first session!

The AALEAD MAC Transition workshops have played a significant role in encouraging our youth to step up to the plate and become leaders not only within AALEAD, but their own lives as well. The workshops have served as a safe space for youth to express their opinions and learn from their peers in a meaningful way. We look forward to spending more time with the MAC students over the rest of the summer and can’t wait to see them grow even more!

AALEAD Serves on Two Fronts!

By Antwoine Johnson, MD Middle School Program Coordinator
Photos courtesy of AALEAD Staff

Last Thursday, during our third week of Summer Kinect, AALEAD youth participated in a community service project for Habitat for Humanity. On one front, AALEAD youth held a car wash at the Wheaton Community Center. A slow start at first, AALEAD youth’s enthusiastic efforts on the side of the road to corral cars paid off – AALEAD youth washed and dried over 30 cars in 2 hours, and raised over $160 for Habitat for Humanity!

On the other front, 10 AALEAD high school youth volunteered at Habitat for Humanity’s ReStore site in Gaithersburg, MD. ReStore is a nonprofit home improvement store and donation center that sells new and gently used furniture, home accessories, building materials, and appliances to the public at low prices.  The proceeds goes towards building homes locally and around the world. At ReStore, AALEAD youth and staff helped organize different sections of the site, assisted customers in finding what they needed and, at times, flexed their muscles to move various items around, including heavy furniture, windows, and other home accessories.

Overall, this service learning project allowed youth to combine lots of fun, hard work, and community service to give back to their community in a meaningful way.

To learn more about Habitat for Humanity Metro Maryland, please visit 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)!

By Melor Suhaimi, AALEAD Staff
Photos Courtesy of Melor Suhaimi, AALEAD Staff

Every Monday at Maryland’s Summer Kinect program, high school AALEADers meet to discuss plans for the week’s programming, discuss Youth Summit plans, and get the opportunity to visit a college or university. Yesterday, Youth Summit planning was put on hold and AALEAD staff and youth (rising high school juniors and seniors) traveled to Philadelphia to visit Haverford College and Villanova University. AALEAD youth had the opportunity to receive a special tour guide, AALEAD staff member Francine, who is a Villanova alum! Around 8 a.m., AALEADers left Maryland and approximately 2.5 hours later, we arrived at Haverford College. A small and quaint campus, Haverford College, took interest to some of our AALEADers. One youth stated, “I like how the campus is small and how [the information session speaker] mentioned that the classes are really small, too.”

After getting a sense of what Haverford College was like, AALEADers hopped back on the van and traveled to Villanova University, about a 10-minute ride from Haverford College.  Our MD Programs Manager, Francine, was ecstatic to be back on her college stomping grounds! AALEADers enjoyed looking at the old and new buildings on the campus, which is a bit larger than Haverford College.

We enjoyed a late lunch at Villanova’s student pavilion and reflected on both college visits. AALEAD high school youth had the opportunity to expand their understanding and knowledge of colleges by visiting Haverford College and Villanova University–some may even add one or both of these colleges to their list!

By Laura Ma, DC Elementary School Summer Program Intern
Photos Courtesy of Micah Shearer and Tina Ngo

Now on to our second week of AALEAD’s DC Elementary School Summer Program! Both the students and the teachers are getting into a good groove. Last week, our youth learned both inside and outside of the classroom. Whether they were learning about how to maintain a healthy lifestyle or the best way to pick blackberries, our students had a smile on their faces. One particularly fun workshop this week was with Ms. Nadia and the Panda class, our little AALEADers. They learned some fun and easy exercises to stay healthy. Jumping jacks were a favorite of the little ones. The Pandas also enjoyed art workshop with week with Miss. Madeline who helped them explore their own identities by decorating small handmade journals with different decorations they thought expressed who they are. Our activities in class workshops are a great time for our AALEAD youth to express themselves. Rachel, from the Panda class, said “I like Miss Madeline’s class because I get to color and have fun.”

AALEAD youth from all four of our classes went on trips just as fun as Miss Madeline’s art class last Friday. We went to Homestead Farms to pick blackberries. This outing also included seeing some goats, chickens, and pigs on the farm as well as an exciting hayride! The hayride was a big hit. Logan, a curious AALEADer from the Lion class asked our guide, “The question is, where do you find tires THAT big?!” The students were all given plastic tins to stock up with blackberries. Our guide at the farm instructed the students to avoid the red berries and go find the ripe, black ones. Almost every student filled their box to the brim and we left the farm with two buses full of very happy AALEAD students.

The summer is already busy and we are all glad to see the students learning in multiple ways. Look for next week’s post about our Tiger class and their newspaper project!

By Melor Suhaimi, AALEAD Staff
Photos Courtesy of AALEAD Staff

As the 2013 – 2014 school year wrapped up, a few weeks later the Maryland’s Summer Kinect program began with 86 middle and high school youth enrolled!  July kicked off with a new beginning of memories for AALEAD youth and staff.  MD’s Summer Kinect program’s theme is on mental health issues with the focus on how staying healthy can affect the mind and the body.  Like MD’s summer programs in the past 2 years, high school youth and middle school youth work together to create a productive and fun program.  During the first week, MD high school AALEADers were revived after their camping trip and were excited to meet and reunite with middle school AALEADers.  High school AALEADers were anxious to see who were going to be in their small groups for the rest of the program:

On the second day of the Summer Kinect program, middle and high school AALEADers released their anxieties and broke the ice through team-building activities like “The Human Knot.”  Youth were asked to untangle themselves while holding hands in their small groups.  As some members of the groups felt frustrated, the rest of the youth made sure to help frustrated youth feel at ease and comfortable with solving the tangled mess!  Team building activities like “The Human Knot” continued throughout all of Week 1 to bring a sense of togetherness between AALEAD high school and middle school youth.

As team-building activities continued throughout Week 1, groups were ready to take on the first field trip of the summer to University of Maryland College Park for the Ropes Course at The Eppley Recreation Center.  AALEADers cheered each other on as each youth climbed up high walls and walked across ropes that were 20 feet high.  Youth that were unfamiliar with the campus even received a tour of University of Maryland College Park for a taste of college life.   For Week 2’s field trip, AALEADers went to Centennial Park in Ellicott City, MD to enjoy a day of relaxation and the outdoors.  AALEAD staff led workshops on meditation & yoga, painting, singing, and muscle rolling therapy.  Even though it was hot and humid out, AALEADers still enjoyed spending a relaxing time outside at the park.

With only 3 more weeks of Summer Kinect, AALEADers, both middle and high school youth, continue to impress AALEAD staff with showcasing their leadership skills and talents; as they did during the school year.  Even though Summer Kinect days are going by, every moment becomes a memory that is instilled in AALEAD history!  Stay tuned for more updates with the rest of Summer Kinect!

Leadership: A Step-by-Step Process

By Bhadon Shalakin, Mentoring Program Intern
Photos Courtesy of Tina Ngo, AALEAD Staff

Last Wednesday,  the Asian American LEAD (AALEAD) Mentoring Advisory Council’s (MAC) Transition workshops took place for the very first time! The AALEAD MAC Transition workshops will be happening every Wednesday and are intended for students that are graduating from elementary school to middle school and middle school to high school. Since transitions from and into different school settings can take time for adjustment, these workshops will help support AALEAD youth in becoming more acquainted with the resources available at their schools and provide tips on how to deal with various issues. Some of the topics the AALEAD MAC Transition workshops will be focusing on include leadership, bullying, peer pressure,  time management, and independence. By participating in these workshops, AALEAD’s rising 6th and 9th graders will not only have a head start on their future academic pursuits, but they will also have the opportunity to  share insights and develop leadership skills as they help mentor their peers.

The afternoon kicked off with our middle and high school youth. After a round of introductions, we played games such as Human Knot and also participated in a relay race that was centered on team building, communication, and leadership. After everyone had the chance to get to know each other, we had a discussion on the values of leadership and teamwork. Our AALEAD youth had wonderful thoughts to share as they talked about who their role models are and what qualities they think leaders have.

Next came the workshop with the transitioning elementary school students. After youth were introduced to each other, groups were split up into teams where the middle and high school youth were all paired with some elementary school students. The first activity everyone participated in was the Desert Island where groups all named and created their own desert island. Each team also had to think of three items they would bring on the island. AALEAD youth had so many creative and interesting answers! From beds to survival guides, the students thought of it all and were super excited to share their thoughts.

During the last activity of the day, students stood in a leadership line, and they talked about different aspects of leadership and gauged what levels of leadership they were comfortable with. Similarly to the middle and high school students, elementary school youth also participated in an insightful conversation on the qualities of a good leader with their teams and then with the larger group. As students began to understand more about leadership and the topics that the the AALEAD MAC Transition workshops will cover, they all became eager and ready to learn more.

We are so excited for the rest of the summer and look forward to our next workshop!