By Yenling Yang, AALEAD Elementary Program Intern
Photos Courtesy of AALEAD Staff & Interns

Summer has just begun and so has our DC Elementary School Summer Program! On July 1, we kicked off our 5-week program at Thomson Elementary School with over 100 youth (114 youth, to be exact – almost double the number of students in the program last year!) and 19 part-time staff members. Even though we are only about two weeks into the program, the enthusiasm from staff, students, and volunteers has been tremendously overwhelming and absolutely contagious, as each day is filled with laughter, smiles, and lots of learning. The students have already gotten to know their teachers and it’s only a matter of time before we get to see each relationship blossom into long lasting relationships.

Ms. Sophie with some of her students at the Newseum!

This summer, we are so lucky to be working with an amazing team of part-time staff members with a wealth of professional and personal experiences, ranging from teaching abroad and in DC schools to extensive experience working in the community (particularly the Asian American community). They hail from all around the DC metro area, the country, and even the world! All have been eager to share their gifts and talents with their colleagues and their students and are doing an amazing job facilitating lessons and activities designed to help our students combat summer learning loss, explore their identity and place in the world, and develop into visionary leaders.

Ms. Katie and the Eagle team!

During these five weeks, our schedule is packed! During the morning programs, our students are immersing themselves in a literacy program, whose highlights include “Fractured Fairytales” and “Reading Buddies. “Fractured Fairytales” take classic fairytale stories and turn them upside down! For example, instead of reading The Three Little Pigs and the Big Bad Wolf , they are reading The Three Little Wolves and the Big Bad Pig. The students have indulged in mini-art projects, creative writing, skit-producing, and grammar activities that are structured to help them expand their vocabulary and find fun in the pages of books. During the morning portion of the program each week, our students take a trip to the library, check out fascinating reads, and engage with one another as “Reading Buddies.” As older students read to the younger ones, the laughter and smiles that have erupted have been magical to see!

Last but not least, our students also get to delve into learning about themselves, their peers, and their community as they transition into the afternoon program. As part of this year’s “I Am the Difference” theme, our youth have been participating in four areas focused on health, community, identity, and presentation (creating a newsletter). Using creativity and some thinking outside of the box, both students and staff have made smoothies, practiced yoga, met with an author (Wendy Shang, author of The Great Wall of Lucy Wu), gardened and gone swimming, among other activities. In addition, every Friday, youth take a field trip around the area! Last week, we visited Homestead Farm in Poolesville, MD, where we picked fresh and organic blueberries, while this week, they headed to the Newseum, where we learned about journalism, reporting, and broadcasting.

Students at Homestead Farm with an alpaca!

Learning at the Newseum!

So much has been accomplished these past two weeks and we are so proud of our students and staff. With only three more weeks left, let the fun continue!

By Melor Suhaimi, AALEAD Staff
Photos Courtesy of AALEAD

The past few weeks of the AALEAD MD Middle and High School Summer Fusion Program have flown by. Week 2 and Week 3 have been filled with performing arts, drawing, and music workshops. AALEAD’s Summer Fusion Program was lucky to have local performers, comedian Martin Amini and DJ Thomas Monje stop by to lead workshops on improvisation and music production. Youth had the opportunity to practice public speaking and improvisation with Martin. Thomas taught youth about producing music and how music from the past can influence songs today. Thanks to Martin and Thomas for coming by!

AALEAD High School youth continued to lead awesome workshops for our Middle School youth. Every day, I saw our youth take pride in what they accomplished at the end of every workshop. Our MD High School Program Manager Francine also led a workshop on ballroom dancing. Youth put their dancing shoes on and learned basic steps of the swing and waltz. At the end of each day, I have had the pleasure of receiving a Photo of the Day from each of our groups, a part of our program’s Summer Photography Project. Stay tuned to see the final project next week, the last week of the Summer Fusion Program! Check out pictures from the past two weeks of the Summer Fusion Program:

Lastly, check out a beat that one of our youth made!  Enjoy!

Intern Spotlight: Are you in on Yenling?

By Lynda Nguyen, AALEAD Summer Development & Communications Intern

Photos Courtesy of AALEAD

Today’s ‘Intern Spotlight’ focuses on Yenling, our DC Elementary Summer School Program intern! Yenling is a rising senior at Brown University, studying health and human biology (a field she is very invested in). In addition to studying health, Yenling is also a dedicated member of the Asian American Student Association at Brown.

Through her time here at Asian American LEAD (AALEAD), she has been able to combine both of her interests, health and Asian American community development. As the ES Summer Program intern, Yenling has taken on many roles that has helped her define what “health and wellness” exactly means here at AALEAD. Continue to read below and see what this native Kentuckian has to say about her experience with AALEAD.

Q: Describe your role here at Asian American LEAD.

A: My position is the DC Elementary School Program intern, so I have an interesting combination of jobs: teacher’s aide, friend, organizer, database entry person, administrator, point person, teacher, map, copier, entertainment, etc. It couldn’t get any better!

Yenling having lunch with some AALEADers.

Q: Why did you choose to volunteer at AALEAD?

A: I chose to volunteer with AALEAD because I was interested in how an Asian American-based community organization could affect the health of Asian American kids. As a human biology major, I’m quite fascinated by how the many facets of our environments can impact our bodies. Thus, working in a school, where I could see what is being fed to young students, both literally and figuratively, peaked my interest. Plus, I adore kids and their care-free natures!

Q: How has working with AALEAD impacted you as a student, advocate, and/or educator?

A: AALEAD has taught me that patience is vital in working not only with students, but also with peers, mentors, and other members of the community. Even though we desperately want the best for our kids and sometimes, we want it now, it seems as though learning how to be patient relieves some of the frustration/tension. However, patience definitely does not equate to a lack of productiveness, so “productive patience” seems to be the best way to approach people and topics from what I have learned.

Yenling with the ES Summer Program on a field trip to a local farm.

Q: What are three things you most enjoy about your program?

A: Genuine laughter, vibrant pictures that are not colored within the lines, and unexpected enthusiasm!

Q: What is one word that encapsulates your summer thus far?

A: Spectacular!

Yenling with a student from the ES Summer Program.

By Karen Yee, AALEAD DC Secondary School Program Intern
Photos Courtesy of AALEAD

Students have an ambitious agenda planned for this summer. July 26 marks the beginning of Asian American LEAD’s (AALEAD) 2nd Annual Asian Pacific American Youth Summit, and DC and MD students are busy planning for it every Monday up until the very start of the event. Youth also have an amazing opportunity to plan, shoot, and edit their own three to five minute video that will be submitted to the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center. Students are also hard at work coming up with new ideas and prepping new lessons plans for the elementary school students.

While students are hard at work with planning the Youth Summit and everything else, they are also learning about various subjects like Asian American history, yoga and creative writing. Pictured above, students are rhetorically analyzing various advertisements and learning how organizations and businesses use ethos, pathos, and logos to persuade their audience. The Rhetorical Analysis workshop kicks off the series of Presentation Workshops that will happen on most Wednesdays and will end with a 10-minute presentation presented by students about a topic they are passionate about.

Next week, students get to attend the OCA Convention to get a better grasp of how to increase cross-cultural communication and to hone their leadership skills. As it is the second week of the DC program, there are only three more weeks until the Youth Summit and five more weeks until the video showing!

Stay tuned for more info!

AALEAD Summer Fusion Program: Week 1

By Melor Suhaimi, AALEAD Staff
Photos Courtesy of Melor Suhaimi and Lynda Nguyen, AALEAD Staff & AALEAD Intern

Anxious.  Excited.  Ready.

These were the three words running through my mind, days leading up to the first day of the Summer Fusion Program. As MD Middle School youth entered the Wheaton Recreation Center at 11am on Tuesday, June 25th, I still felt those emotions; but then a sense of calmness kicked in. It was calming to see youth’s reactions as old and new friends came through the door. It was calming to see Middle School youth interacting with High School volunteers and workshop leaders. And it was calming to see, in general, how everybody was excited for the first day of the Summer Fusion Program.

In just the first week of Summer Fusion, youth took part in team-building activities like making sure that pigs can actually fly, (using a piggy bank and balloons!) building the highest tower using spaghetti and marshmallows, and brainstorming daily group goals.

High School workshop leaders and volunteers stepped up and introduced Middle School youth to poetry & singing workshops and fitness & dance workshops.  By the end of each day youth were exhausted, but learned a lot about the fusion of music and the arts.  And lastly, yesterday, Summer Fusion participants attended a field trip to the free Smithsonian Folklife Festival.  Despite the tornado warnings, it ended up being a beautiful, sunny Thursday late afternoon to enjoy a Hawaiian music and dance concert.

I still can’t believe that next week is Week 2!  Looking forward to the rest of Summer Fusion and stay tuned for updates!

Farewell AALEAD!

Just a little over two years ago, I first walked through the doors of AALEAD, equally nervous and excited. Today, I will leave knowing what an incredible experience my time here has been, immensely gratifying, inspiring and memorable all at the same time.

I feel strongly that working with youth is a unique privilege. As an AALEAD coordinator, you bear the responsibility of helping guide them in their journey, of being a role model and never taking your time with them for granted. The funny thing is just how much we grow alongside our students. It’s cliché to say that kids teach us as we teach them, but in my case at least, it’s been absolutely true.

I will always look back fondly on being the coordinator for Digital Connectors for two summers and seeing the students accomplish so much in a short period of time. My time with middle school has been particularly special, as we cooked up a storm, delved into an array of cultural traditions and customs and learned how to work together and strengthen the bonds of friends and family.

It’s never easy saying goodbye, but I’m looking forward to staying in touch and witnessing all of the great things to come here in AALEAD.

Summer 2013 Intern: Vanessa Bui

Hi! I’m Vanessa, the Summer 2013 Maryland Middle and High School intern. Hailing all the way from Orange County, California, this is my first time in Washington D.C. and Maryland. Oh and before anyone asks…yes, my life is exactly like the TV shows The O.C. and The Hills. I received my Bachelor’s degree in History from Saint Mary’s College, an all women’s college across the street from the University of Notre Dame in Indiana. I am currently pursuing a Master’s in Social Work at the University of Southern California. When I’m not saving the world one person at a time, you can find me reading about history, obsessing over Welsh Corgi puppies (seriously have you seen their stubby little legs?!), or trying out a new recipe in the kitchen.

Having fun on Splash Mountain...too much fun?

I am excited to be part of the AALEAD Summer Fusion program. As an aspiring social worker, I have learned that being genuine is one of the most important lessons in working with youth. I hope to make a positive impact on those in the programs so that they will learn to be more comfortable with themselves and in turn, inspire others to do the same.

Excited to be in D.C.!

In front of the White House

By Lynda Nguyen, AALEAD Summer Development & Communications Intern
Photos Courtesy of Lynda Nguyen, AALEAD Summer Intern

Asian American LEAD summer has officially started!
Yesterday was the kick-off event for AALEAD Summer Fusion: the summer program for our Maryland middle and high school students. It was a day spent dancing, rapping,…and hot air ballooning? (which was probably my most favorite activity, take a look!)

As I stated in my last blog post, I am a former AALEADer (cerca 2007). Yesterday was my first time in an AALEAD program since I graduated. It was such an amazing experience to not only meet the students that are so actively involved in AALEAD, but to also see our very passionate staff in action. Between meeting new students, and embarrassing myself during icebreaker time (don’t ask), yesterday felt like a reintroduction to AALEAD.

After being gone for so long, the visit renewed my sense of community. The students were willing to take on new challenges, willing to learn, willing to try; it reminded me of my experience at AALEAD. I was always encouraged by AALEAD staff, always introduced to new things, new ideas. Summer program was not just another way to occupy my time, it was the place that helped me grow, explore, and most importantly, lead. Now, as an alumnus, seeing that again first-hand reaffirms why I wanted to come back.

As an organization that seeks to help Asian American youth, AALEAD heals the community from within. Through special programming surrounding the arts and leadership-building, AALEAD helps foster creativity, entrepreneurship, and tenacity in its students. AALEAD is such a special place to me. Though so many years have passed, the heart of the organization is still the same, evidence that AALEAD is truly something exceptional.

To the Maryland staff and students: Thank you again for such a warm welcome. I will be back for another visit before you know it, cannot wait for the rest of the summer!

I hope all of you are enjoying the start to summer!  At AALEAD, June has meant the end of school-year after-school programs and the start of summer programs.  It’s also been time for our Board of Directors to discuss priorities for the year and celebrate with staff.

At the close of each program, youth and staff celebrated what they had accomplished during the school-year.  If you have not read about the closing BBQ in Maryland, check it out here.  In all of the closing celebrations I went to, it was so moving to see the youth going on to middle school, high school, and college reflect on what AALEAD has meant to them.  We will continue to see many youth at our programs and as alumni into the future, but I wish we could be in all the middle and high schools our youth will be attending.  It can be hard to explain why we are not.

I am so proud of our staff and the work they have done to support youth in their transitions – from coaching youth on what middle school is like, to giving tours of high schools, to navigating the college process, and celebrating accomplishments.  At the same time as all of this, staff have been planning for summer!  Summer programs officially kicked off this week.  Continue to check out our blog to see all our youth will be doing this summer!  We have some really innovative programming that our staff are excited to share with you.

We also held our Board of Directors retreat this month – an important meeting to reflect and discuss our priorities going forward.  In addition to having a great meeting, we had a lunch celebration including staff.  It’s been great for both the Board and staff to get to know each other a bit more this year!

Until next month!


Hello! My name is Karen Yee and I’ll be the new summer High School Program intern. I will be working under the supervision of Alexander Cena and I am super excited to be interning at Asian American Lead because I think this is a fabulous organization that is doing amazing things with youth. I really want to pitch in and help out with everything that they do.

I am from San Francisco, California where it is not as hot as DC (in fact, quite the opposite), but I’m sure I’ll learn to love the weather here. I have recently graduated from University of California, Irvine with a B.S. in Biological Sciences and B.A. in Sociology. I’m hoping to be a Child Life Specialist in the future or go into a field that deals with social justice issues or women’s rights.

A little about myself…favorite hobby is reading and I can read through a library’s fiction, mystery, and fantasy section within a week. I love finding new food places and trying out new things. I have worked with UCI’S Student Housing for the past two years and it’s really helped me foster leadership skills and awareness for the importance of diversity within a community and appreciation for people’s unique experiences. For the first three years in college, I joined UC Irvine’s Dragonboat team. While I would have loved to continue dragonboating my last year of college, I wanted to branch out and focus on other interests. In my last year of college, I joined Colleges Against Cancer in order to raise awareness and money for cancer research.

I can’t wait to interact with the youth in this year’s summer program. I’m hoping to learn a lot and to have a fun and engaging experience with AALead.