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MD Park Clean Up: Fun in the Sun!

By Melor Suhaimi, AALEAD Staff
Photos Courtesy of AALEAD Staff

As AALEAD’s DC program cleaned up the Piney Branch-Crestwood Park on Saturday April 5th, MD Middle and High School students, MD staff, mentors, and an AALEAD board member helped with cleaning a small creek in Kensington, MD. Part of the Ken-Gar Palisades Park, AALEADers put on gloves, grabbed trash bags, and began carefully walking along the creek picking up trash and even finding treasures! Well, not really treasures, but unusual finds that were hidden beneath the dirt!

The sun was brightly shining and it was a beautiful Spring day, despite the wind.  With the sun shining down, AALEADers were paired up with a buddy to find trash to clean up the creek and earned their 2 student service learning (SSL) hours.  In Montgomery County, youth are required to earn at least 75 SSL hours in order to graduate.  AALEAD continues to have community service events like the park clean-up to encourage youth to earn those 75 SSL hours (and even more SSL hours!) to graduate.  It is also to remind youth the importance of giving back to their own community; whether its picking up trash in the local neighborhood or making goodie bags for cancer patients at a local children’s hospital.  Community service events also allow AALEAD youth from all of our Middle and High school programs, volunteers, mentors, staff, and board members to meet and connect with each other.  In a sense, a team-building experience is created through these events and gives all members of the AALEAD family a chance to bond!

As the day came to an end, AALEADers enjoyed a quick snack and played at a park near the creek while waiting to get picked up by their parents and guardians.  Even with 2 hours spent cleaning up a creek, our AALEAD youth were not tired!  AALEADers enjoyed 30 minutes of carefree time of swinging on swings, going down slides, and kicking a soccer ball around.  It was a great and successful event to kick off the Spring season!  Thank you to Park Coordinators, Elin, Gail, and Ken for providing supplies for our youth!

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

This past weekend, AALEADers joined mentors, volunteers, staff members, and our friends at CAPAL (Conference on Asian Pacific American Leadership) in cleaning up Piney Branch-Crestwood Park during the 26th Annual Potomac River Watershed Clean Up. This was an especially wonderful event because three of our students from Annandale High School were able to join us for the first time! Despite the windy weather, all of our students braved the cold and did an awesome job in doing their parts to help keep our Earth clean. As they made their way over to the meeting area, excited cheers and laughter could be heard from all around.

After listening to a brief orientation by our site coordinator, AALEADers broke off into teams and gathered their materials (gloves, trash bags, and recycling bags). Venturing across creeks, over grassy hillsides, and through some underbrush, our youth discovered countless interesting items along the way. From an entire outfit (jeans and a T-shirt!) to a skateboard, a motor, and even a few coconuts, many random items were simply discarded or forgotten in the park. Quite the hard-working adventurers, AALEAD youth continued to separate the recyclables and trash even as they made their impressive findings throughout the area.

Lunch time quickly approached, and the students were ready to gather as a larger group again. As they feasted on granola bars, fruit snacks, crackers, and fruit, youth chatted with the other AALEADers, mentors, volunteers, and staff who they had not had a chance to meet prior to the event. Students who currently attend different schools also reunited and had a fantastic time catching up!

Events like the park clean-up teach our youth important leadership skills such as teamwork and giving back to the community. As AALEADers reflected on the day, they mentioned how surprised they were that so much trash and odds and ends could end up in such an important part of their community. All of them vowed to continue making the world a better place by recycling and making sure to throw their trash away.

Thank you to all of the youth, mentors, volunteers, staff, and CAPAL members who joined us! Also, special shout out to our friends at CAPAL for providing the snacks for our youth and Doug Barker, Margo Reid, and Karen Zeiter from  the Rock Creek Conservancy for helping us coordinate the event. We had a blast this year and can’t wait to work together with all of you again next year!

Hello! My name is Charles Kuo and I am AALEAD’s new Parent Outreach Coordinator! I am so excited to be serving this community!

Enthusiastic introduction: Yes! But I won’t stop or contain it. Growing up Asian American, I got hit with many stereotypes. Characteristics that I felt I had to uphold or honor and it twisted the conception of my identity. Several questions popped in my mind: Who am I supposed to be? Why do I have to fit a role that someone else gave me? Why do I have to stay quiet when my voice wants to heard?

Truthfully, we can be debilitated by our stereotypes. It creates an immeasurable sense of burden/pressure and it’s suffocating. But thankfully, I got over them. They existed but they didn’t have to define me. Since then, I’ve always made a conscious effort to just be myself. There will only be one me in this world. My hope is to instill that truth in our youth and spread it with love. We are truly unique. There is a deep purpose for us here. What’s my purpose? I’m not sure, but I am shaping it.

One thing is true: I love helping people. After I graduated college, I didn’t do what I was “supposed” to do. Instead, I went to my family’s homeland, Taiwan, and served at a village that I had never been to before. Crazy, right? But it was perfect for me. I heard and felt a need there and I wanted to serve. Though there is a different need and a different audience here, my heart is inclined to serve through AALEAD. Moving forward, I hope to do what’s best for everyone within this role. I know I will learn a lot along the way and I joyfully salivate at that prospect!

Outside of AALEAD, you can find me at Taiwanese Presbyterian Church of Washington (where I serve as a Deacon) or with the Taiwanese Association of America -Greater Washington Chapter (where I am Board member). I love all things, FOOD! Whether it be cooking something up in the kitchen or eating more than I should at some hole-in-the-wall restaurant. I often watch movies and have a niche appreciation for Asian War movies. I am also oddly a fan and player of all racket sports. We can play together, but I tend to be more intense than I need to be. Music is also an essential part of my identity. I love emoting through it and creating new music. Lastly, there is only one thing I truly despise in this world…bitter melon (that’s all I will say…). Be good. Be happy. Be you!

Charles

“Your vocation in life is where your greatest joy meets the world’s greatest need.”
-Frederick Buechner


Want more? Check out Charles’ bio here!

Push the Limits of Possibility

By Keo Xiong, AALEAD Staff

“What do you want to be when you grow up?”

You have probably been asked, and have answered, this question many times. Was your answer always the same? Did it change with each ask? If I were to ask you, right now, what you want to be when you grow up (we are always growing up, even when we think we’re grown up!), what would you say?

AALEAD youth at Argyle recently participated in multiple career exploration workshops to learn about their dream careers, as well as careers they might not have considered or known about before. We kicked off the workshops with guest speaker Dr. Hweyon Lee, U.S. Public Health Service Dental Officer, who taught youth about oral health, careers in dentistry, and how she found her path to dentistry. Youth practiced proper teeth brushing with models and won toothpaste prizes by answering questions posed by Dr. Lee. Through Dr. Lee’s workshop, youth learned about the importance of oral health as an integral part of one’s overall health and well-being.

In other workshops, youth learned about themselves and how their personalities and interests inform their career choices. After taking the Holland Personality Survey, youth explored a variety of careers that match their personality. They also discovered new career possibilities they had not considered before, such as botany, landscape architecture, and genetics. AALEADers are a talented bunch and their answers to the question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” truly reflect that. During a free-write session following the workshops, youth wrote about their dreams for their future 25-year-old self. Youth were encouraged to push the limits of possibility and to share information about their jobs, place of residence, family, and anything else they wanted to include. AALEADers’ career interests are not only a reflection of their talents, but also of their interests, family, and friends. I learned so much about each of these youth through this activity and am inspired by their dreams and goals. Below are some excerpts from their entries.

“Today is my 25th birthday and I just got the greatest job as a veterinarian. I live in California with my family in a single house. I like to play on my tablet and read.”

“Today is my 25th birthday. I got the greatest job in the TCS [The Capitol Symphonic Youth] Orchestra playing an English folksong and all the songs from my youth. I drove my flying car to work today.”

“When I become 25 I will work at a job that works with athletes. Here are some jobs: coach, head coach, GM [general manager of a team], physical therapist.”

“I got offered the greatest job: film editing a zombie movie. Zombie movies make a lot of money so I’ll get more money than my other offers.”

“Currently in Korea with Vicky. I’m currently a back-up dancer for K-artists. From nine years ago, I knew I would never really “sing” but dance stuck with me. It’s fun because I get to meet all these talented people. If I ever get tired of this job, perhaps I’ll go back to the U.S. and do biology. Maybe I’ll get married too…maybe.”

“Today is my 25th birthday and I just got the greatest job as a research specialist. I get to work all day with a subject I love. I also get to see my dad at work as he is now a historian. It doesn’t feel like work. I live in my own apartment in College Park [MD] and I hang out with my friends Rinn (champion horse rider), Ellie (gold medalist gymnast), Cameron (famous quarterback), and Christian (famous soccer player).

P.S. I actually think all of this WILL happen.”

“Today is my 25th birthday and I just got the greatest job, a K-Pop [Korean Pop] artist. I practice vocal and dance every day and I also improve too. And my family supports my dream, after a thousand times of convinces and tries. It is blessed and wonderful to see my new albums selling; to perform around the world; and meet my idols and fans.”

“I come home for my birthday and meet up with my family. My cousins invite me to play basketball outside. We see a shiny Ferrari pulling in after me and my team won [the game]. He [person in the car] asks to talk to me and says ‘Happy Birthday.’ He gives me an invitation to the NBA Rookie Showcase.”

I hope these youth and their dreams have inspired you! Like them, don’t be afraid to push the limits of possibility! So, let me ask you again, what do you want to be when you grow up?

Thank you Dr. Lee for coming to AALEAD at Argyle Middle School!

What a wonderful celebration of more than 15 years of AALEAD!  On Wednesday, we had an amazing group of 300 AALEAD supporters join us for our 15th Annual Dinner.  It was so fantastic to have a full room to celebrate AALEAD’s successes and hear from our wonderful speakers.

Those of you who attended know that we made an exciting announcement . . .  AALEAD has now officially launched in Northern Virginia!  Our staff have been meeting with students over the past many weeks at Annandale High School in Fairfax County and we received our first grant to partially support this new work from CareFirst!  Thank you, CareFirst!

While planning events like the Annual Dinner take a considerable amount of work, our staff and Board also get re-energized by sharing the stories of our AALEAD youth with the community.  Last night was no exception.  I personally left last night’s event so grateful for the AALEAD family and all we have been able to accomplish together and am excited to take on new challenges to expand and serve more youth who deserve every opportunity.

Thank you for continuing the journey with us!

Asian American LEAD (AALEAD) hosted our 15th Annual Dinner at the Silver Spring Civic Building in downtown Silver Spring from 6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m with 300 guests in attendance yesterday. The evening was empowering and a reminder of what a passionate and strong community is doing and can do together for our young people today and in the future!

We kicked off the night with a reception, with hors d’oeuvres provided by our friends at Hollywood East, and networking. Our Youth Ambassadors did an amazing job confidently representing their programs and AALEAD peers!


It was truly an evening of celebrating community and AALEAD’s accomplishments in serving our youth!

During the program part of the event, hosted by anchor and reporter Kathy Park, guests had the opportunity to hear testimonials from current AALEAD youth Jessa Martinez, AALEAD alumnus Dr. Tu-Anh Vu, and AALEAD Board Member Will Choi.

We ended the evening with a buffet dinner provided by our friends at Szechuan Delight, more networking, and two drawings for iPad Air raffle! Congratulations to our two raffle winners from last night! Jesse Chong, winner of an iPad, AALEAD Board Member Siu Cheung from Siu’s Asian Bistro; and Alicia Cutler, winner of an iPad, donated by our Board. Special thanks to Bread Corner (Dessert Sponsor), Coca-Cola (Beverage Sponsor), Marriott (Print Sponsor), and Asian Fortune (Media Sponsor). A huge thank you to our friend and former staff, Don Kim (www.donkimmusic.com), for this wonderful video we were able to show at the dinner! Check it out:

Thank you to all who joined us for AALEAD’s 15th Annual Dinner! We truly hope it was a night to remember and that you have been inspired to stay connected to the work we do in the community. We thank our elected officials who took time to attend our event: Montgomery County Executive Isaiah “Ike” Leggett, Council President Craig Rice, Councilmember Nancy Floreen, Councilmember George Leventhal, Councilmember Hans Riemer, and Virginia Delegate Mark Keam.

We also thank all our Individual Supporters, Table Sponsors and Donors for your generosity and commitment to supporting our community’s youth.

Lastly, a very big and special thank you to our Sponsors for this year’s Annual Dinner:

Silver
Annie E. Casey Foundation
Walmart

Bronze
CareFirst
Catholic University of America,  School of Engineering
Comcast
Latham & Watkins LLP
McLean Asset Management
Verizon

For more on our supporters, please visit this link.

Thank you from AALEAD!

More photos to come on our our Facebook, so please stay tuned!

Want more? Stay connected with us on Facebook (Asian American LEAD) and Twitter/Instagram (@aalead).

By My Nguyen, DC Program Coordinator
Photos courtesy of AALEAD Staff

The DC Middle & High School Program offers students a unique opportunity to connect with their fellow Asian American peers in a fun and challenging environment, with events and activities that allow them to learn more about themselves and develop the confidence and skills needed to be successful academically and socially.

Students have been meeting at Bancroft Elementary School biweekly to discuss program goals and opportunities they could take part in as an AALEADer. On Saturday, March 22, students visited The George Washington University called Humans of South Asia: An ExploreAsian. Besides learning about the various flags of South Asian countries and participating in cultural activities, students were also able to explore the GWU campus. The momentum of the weekend carried into Monday as the students gathered together for a semi adventure-based outdoor team building activity which included a game of kickball!

See below for a few pictures of the students in the program!


By Keo Xiong, AALEAD Staff

Photos courtesy of AALEAD Staff

Youth at Argyle and Parkland Middle Schools have begun their fourth Asian country exploration of the academic year, this month focusing on Vietnam and Vietnamese culture. AALEAD youth tested their knowledge of all things Vietnam by competing against one another in a trivia game during programs. Among the various facts and information youth learned from the trivia competition, they learned that the national sport of Vietnam is jianzi, or Chinese shuttlecock.

The game of jianzi is played on a court much like that used for badminton, and with similar rules. Two teams, each on opposite sides of the net, attempt to score by hitting the shuttlecock playing piece over the net and making the opposing team miss the return. The biggest difference? Players cannot use their hands. Instead, players use mainly their feet and other body parts, which requires a lot of skills! Another way to play is to pass the shuttlecock around like you would with a hacky sack, adding tricks and other creative moves.

AALEAD youth learned about the game and made their own shuttlecock pieces. Using a variety of materials, including beans, cloth, and brightly colored feathers, each youth made their own unique shuttlecock to play with and bring home. They enjoyed the game and were enthusiastic about teaching their family members how to play. You can join in on the fun and learn how to play this great sport by making your own shuttlecock!

Here’s what you will need:

1 piece of cloth, cut into 6”x6” square

1 small handful of beans

1 metal washer

2-3 feathers with a quill base

1 rubber band

Yarn or ribbon

Hot glue gun and glue


Directions:

1. Arrange feathers by inserting the quills into the washer’s center.

2. Apply a generous amount of hot glue around the quills on both sides of the washer. Allow glue to fully dry. Trim the quills if necessary.


3. Place a handful of dry beans onto the back side of the cloth, centered.

4. Place the feathers and washer on top of the beans.


5. Begin folding up the sides of the cloth towards the top of the washer and around the feathers.

6. Tie the cloth securely with a rubber band. Pull up every side of the cloth tips to ensure no beans will have an opening to fall out.

7. Finish by tying a ribbon or yarn around the rubber band.


Now that you have your very own shuttlecock, find an empty space and start kicking away! Tell us how you did and share pictures of your jianzi piece with us!

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.