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By Melor Suhaimi & Keo Xiong
Photos Courtesy of AALEAD Staff

The 2013-2014 school year has gone by so quickly! Even though time flew by, many activities took place throughout the school year and especially during the last few weeks. The end of the year is always a bittersweet time because we are all excited for the summer, but it is also time to say goodbye to our youth until the Fall (or until the start of the Summer Kinect, AALEAD’s MD Middle and High School Summer Program!)

At Argyle and Parkland Middle schools, youth learned about Asian countries of their choice, including Japan, South Korea, Philippines, and Vietnam. For each unit, the country’s history, culture, and people were highlighted. Other aspects of the country were highlighted such as arts and crafts, pop culture, and famous people, as well as everyone’s favorite: food. Making food and eating food was a common goal throughout all Middle School Programs! MD Middle School AALEADers made sushi (Japan), bibimbap and bulgogi (South Korea), halo-halo (Phillipines), and spring rolls and banh mi sandwiches (Vietnam), among other dishes. The highlight of the year at Argyle was when youth created their own dish – from the name to the recipe – which incorporated ingredients from each youth’s cultural dishes, and which they named Halo-ritto (a play on the words halo-halo, a dessert from the Philippines, and burrito bowls from one of their favorite restaurants, Chipotle). It was great to see youth engaged and interested in learning about cultures different from their own.

AALEADers also took on many leadership roles, teaching their peers about their favorite topics and interests. AALEAD staff took part in thoughtful lessons planned and taught by Argyle and Parkland youth. Topics included how to draw manga, how to play basketball, Korean pop music, how to dance, and the significance of Indian mehndi tattoos.  Leadership and maturity were just a few qualities that AALEADers displayed in front of the classroom as they taught and directed their peers through these lessons.

At Loiederman and Eastern Middle Schools, AALEADers reflected on the school year and wrote special goodbye notes to each individual youth.  Loiederman and Eastern AALEADers created and customized their own envelope where the special notes were placed and read on the very last day of programs.  In a time of reflection and goodbyes, it is always rewarding to see the strong family bond that AALEAD creates!

Field trips were also a highlight this school year!  AALEADers youth had the opportunity to go to Manna Food Center, Fiesta Asia, Maryland Day, and the DC Central Kitchen, among others.  This past Saturday, AALEAD staff took AALEAD youth who worked on the Youth Media project to the movies in Downtown Silver Spring. Youth enjoyed watching Maleficent and after, spent quality time together on a beautiful sunny day!  Field trips throughout the year led to youth earning student service learning hours to providing youth from all programs to spend a day together outside of school.  Here are pictures from this past Saturday’s trip to the movies:

As the academic year draws to a close, we celebrate and congratulate all of our AALEAD youth and their accomplishments, from our sixth graders who have transitioned well into middle school from elementary school, to our seventh graders who continue exploring their interests, and finally, to the eighth graders who have grown to become role models for their younger AALEAD peers and are moving on to the next chapter in their lives: high school.

Youth Media Festival a Success!

Last Saturday, Asian American LEAD (AALEAD) middle and high school youth gathered at the Silver Spring Civic Building in downtown Silver Spring to participate in the Gandhi Brigade Youth Media Festival. AALEADers had the opportunity to screen one of our two youth-produced films and volunteered to help make the event a success. With support from the Gandhi Brigade, AALEADers were able to create and produce their own short 3-minute films–our youth chose to focus on the theme of identity.

High school AALEADers arrived on site early to set up and table for the event while middle school youth went around the square to flier and spread the word on the youth media screenings in the afternoon.

Our AALEAD youth were excited and eager to see their hard work be shown on a big screen at the event, along with films from other youth focused organizations from the community.

Our high school youth, whose video was selected to be screened, had the opportunity to get up in front of the audience and share about AALEAD and the process of selecting the theme of identity and producing the video. AALEADers spoke so confidently and it was evident they were passionate about their film’s take away message. Youth shared that they wanted the audience to leave with knowing the importance of not conforming to who or what society tells you you are and should be, but striving to be your own unique person and pursuing your passion and dreams. Check out our middle school video here.

We would like to thank Richard Jaeggi, a friend and supporter, and the Gandhi Brigade for believing in our community’s youth. We will always remember Richard as a leader and light in our community who truly gave his heart to empower and equip our youth to share their voice with the world. We are so empowered by the voices of our young people and look forward to more youth-led and produced projects.

Staff Spotlight: Meet Coach Franny!

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

Welcome to our Staff Spotlight for the month of May on our MD Programs Manager, Francine Gorres!  Read the Q & A below to find out more about AALEAD’s star athlete staff member!

Farthest on the right

Q: How long have you been with AALEAD and what is your specific role?
A: So, I have been with AALEAD for about five years now.  I am on my fifth year.  I started off as a Teaching Assistant for the DC Elementary School Program at Bancroft Elementary School. About nine months later, there was an opening for a Program Coordinator for the MD High School Program.  I applied for that and I have been in that role for about four years.  Recently, I have become the MD Programs Manager since last October.

Q: How do you think working for AALEAD has impacted you personally?
A: This is such a tough question to summarize! There’s so many great things happening at AALEAD that it’s hard not to grow as a person. As a youth worker, I’ve learned so much about how to support youth, but also learned how to let go and watch them grow into young adults. I’ve seen young elementary school students grow into high school students and high school students grow into college students. In a few years, I’ll see our alumni graduate college and enter the work field! I consider myself blessed to be able to witness some of these milestones in their lives and to share with their families their successes and challenges.  I also think that I’ve grown into a better leader and a better coach because of AALEAD. Our AALEAD team is truly talented and I have a unique experience where I get to be on the ground, in the trenches with staff, but also in a leadership role where I get to see a lot of the big picture elements of the organization. It’s made me realize that our organization truly tries to develop its students and staff into better leaders in order to make an impact in the community. I’ve always had a big heart for helping others and AALEAD has not only given me the tools, but also real confidence in my ability to make a difference.

Q: What is the most rewarding part of your role at AALEAD?
A: I think for me the most rewarding part is really getting to see the students grow.  In high school, their growth is so rapid because there are so many things going on.  They may be facing certain problems one year and then the next year they have become successful in doing what they are really passionate about or getting good grades or even do something they have never imagined themselves doing before.  Those are some of the short term things that are very rewarding.  Something long term I really enjoy is seeing students graduate because you get to see their journey through high school.  You get to see a lot of their falls, mistakes, and struggles but most importantly you get to see their victories, improvements, and growth.

Q: Favorite hobby?
A: My favorite hobby?  I have a lot of hobbies!  I am very active so my favorite hobby I would say is playing sports.  I really like football!  I love watching and playing football.  I have coached for the University of Maryland Filipino Cultural Association. They have a Turkey Bowl event every year. I have been coaching them for the past two years and I have also played as the quarterback. We have won the championship for the past four years.  I just really love football!

Q: What is the most unique thing about you?
A: I think that I am unique because I have several passions, hidden and evident, that make up who I am and I try to incorporate into my life. I’ll give you three. I’m very passionate about being physically active. Whether it’s through sports, playing games with students, or going to the gym, I always try to make sure that I’m staying active and fit. Another passion of mine is family. I am very close to my family and I always try to make sure that I carve out time for them by having family dinners, going to church, and just supporting each of my siblings in their individual passions. Finally, I’m very passionate about music and dance. I love listening to music and learning about all different types of dances. I used to take ballroom dancing, but decided to take a break and come back to it later in life.

Q: If you could go back in time and give your younger self a piece of advice, what would it be?
A: If I were to go back to my high school self, I would tell her that it is okay to have fun sometimes. I would tell her to let go of what people are going to think about you, what your parents expect of you, and what your teacher think about you. I think it is important to set goals for yourself and set the bar high but at the same time enjoy being young. Just being able to enjoy having fun with friends and appreciating that part of your life. Don’t be too serious all the time is another one as well.

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)!

By Keo Xiong, AALEAD Staff
Photos Courtesy of AALEAD Staff

This past Monday, Asian American LEAD (AALEAD) at Argyle and Loiederman Middle Schools collaborated with the African Immigrant and Refugee Foundation (AIRF) to host a community screening of the youth videos created with support from the Gandhi Brigade. AALEAD and AIRF youth have been looking forward to sharing their videos and all the hard work put into creating them with others. This screening, held at Argyle Middle School, was open to members of the Argyle community, as well as members of AALEAD at Loiederman Middle School.

As the host of the community screening, Argyle AALEADers spent a week planning and prepping for the event. They wrote and delivered personal invitations to teachers and staff; created visuals, including an Asian American history timeline and poster for APIA Heritage Month; selected items for food and drinks; and created the agenda and icebreaker activity. Argyle AALEADers were nervous but excited to host an event at their school and meet other AALEAD and AIRF peers.

On Monday after school, AALEADers from Loiederman traveled to from their school to join AIRF and Argyle AALEAD youth, teachers, a counselor, and AALEAD staff at Argyle’s cafeteria to network over great food, watch the youth-produced videos, and participate in a diversity and cross-cultural activity and dialogue.

With a focus on identity in each video, AALEAD and AIRF youth discovered that, despite coming from different cultures and backgrounds, they faced similar challenges, such as parents wanting their children to be doctors, and navigating bi- or multicultural homes and families. Additionally, youth also saw that they share similar interests, including basketball, dance, and wanting to rise above stereotypes. Youth had the opportunity to share their stories and connect across cultures and backgrounds to realize that their experiences, after all, are not so different from one another. Whether their families came from Vietnam, speak French, recently arrived in Maryland, or grew up in the United States, AALEAD and AIRF youth found that they could relate to one another.

The youth further discussed diversity through an activity and discussion, in which they shared more information about themselves, like their favorite native dish and what languages they spoke at home, as well as what they learned about each other.

This is the first time that AALEAD and AIRF have worked together on an event and we hope to continue developing this partnership. By recognizing, celebrating, and reflecting on differences and similarities between cultures and peoples, we hope our youth will become more aware of others in their schools and communities, and seek to learn and grow from these cross-cultural experiences.

Hope you have had the chance to do something to celebrate Asian Pacific American Heritage Month!  Here at Asian American LEAD, we have had a lot of excitement.

As you may have seen, AALEAD had the honor of being featured as part of NBC4’s Asian Pacific American Heritage Month special.  I am so proud of our youth sharing their stories on TV!  Check it out here.  Thank you Eun Yang and NBC4 for making this happen.

We had a great time at Fiesta Asia this year with 111 youth, staff, and mentors participating, in addition to many of our supporters!  It was great to see our middle school youth take the lead this time doing the choreography for the dance and sharing with their peers.

Also exciting this month were two cross-cultural dialogues between AALEAD youth and youth from the African Immigrant and Refugee Foundation.  The youth screened videos and then engaged in great discussions about stereotypes and who they are as individuals.  I hope we can continue to do more of this work to build understanding and coalitions across communities!

AALEADers at Fiesta Asia DC 2014!

Asian American LEAD (AALEAD) participated in Fiesta Asia DC this past Saturday, May 17. AALEAD had 111 youth, staff, and mentors from DC, MD and VA celebrate Asian Pacific American Heritage Month at Fiesta Asia this year! We were especially excited to have our new VA AALEADers join us.


AALEADers, from elementary, middle, and high school, took the East Cultural Stage bright and early and performed our third annual Asian Fusion modern dance to music mixed by our friend Alex from Allkpop. What made this year’s performance even more special was that we got to see our middle school youth sharpen their leadership skills through organizing and event planning. The newly launched MD Middle School Youth Council took the lead on selecting music and creating and organizing choreography. With staff support, youth even created a tutorial video on YouTube so all our AALEADers in DC, MD and VA could learn for Fiesta Asia DC! Our youth also prepared a trivia wheel with prizes for any guests who came by our booth. More about event prep here.

After our morning performance, youth were able to spend time visiting the different booths and learning about other cultures and groups. They also got to see various talents being performed at Fiesta Asia’s two other stage areas. AALEADers grouped together for lunch, snacks, and beverages, before having more free time and then preparing for the cultural parade. AALEAD youth represent more than 14 different Asian ethnic backgrounds. For the parade, our AALEADers celebrated our diversity as one. During the parade, AALEADers held our AALEAD signs and chanted cheers proudly!

A huge thank you to our friends at Arnold & Porter LLP who graciously supported our youth with snacks, lunches, and beverages! Another thank you to the Taiwanese Association of America – Greater Washington Chapter (TAA-GWC) for allowing us to share a booth space this year.

Thank you to ALL who came out to support youth and also helped to make this year’s Fiesta Asia DC experience so memorable for all our AALEADers. Youth, staff, and mentors are already looking forward to next year’s event!

Be sure to check out our videos from the performance below:

Farewell AALEAD

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

It has been a pleasure to work for AALEAD during the spring semester.  Time has passed so quickly.  It feels as though it was just last week that I started interning for AALEAD.  I remember it like it was yesterday when I was getting interviewed by Tina and Sharon for the Development and Communications Intern position.  From the very first day, I have learned so much from working with AALEAD!  Whether it was posting on social media websites or assisting with the 15th Annual Dinner, it has been such a great learning experience.  I was able to learn how to hone in on my creativity and express it in a professional manner.  It has been such a great journey filled with challenges  and accomplishments.

Overall, it was a great pleasure working with AALEAD.  It was a great opportunity in which I was able to experience different areas of work.  I hope that AALEAD will continue to grow and make a positive impact in the community!  It is never easy to say goodbye, so farewell for now, until next time.

by Madeline Sumida & Micah Shearer, AALEAD Staff
Photo Credit: Madeline Sumida

If you find yourself in Mt. Pleasant this month, keep a sharp eye out for artwork submitted by our Bancroft AALEAD students as part of the Annual Mount Pleasant Youth Arts Fair. The Fair highlights artwork from students at eight elementary and high schools in the Mt. Pleasant area. This is AALEAD’s third year participating and we could not be more proud of our students’ submissions.

This year, our pre-k through second grade class focused on making artwork out of re-used and recycled materials and our third through fifth grade students explored self-portraiture. Working on these projects helped our students, reflect on their own identity, learn about the environment and the importance of caring for it, and explore how everyday objects can be turned into beautiful works of art.

Students won an award for their submission of a photograph of a structure  they made out of newspapers rolled into tight cylinders and taped together. The kids enjoyed taking breaks from homework to read inside their architectural creation! In addition, first grader Alecille won an award for her painting of an ice cream monument made out of recycled materials.

The Fair will display the artwork until May 31 at businesses throughout Mt. Pleasant. Come see the creative efforts of our AALEAD students and other young artists by dropping by the following businesses: Angelico Pizzeria, Dollar Star, Dos Gringos Cafe & Ice Cream Parlor, El West, Flying Fish Coffee & Tea, Frugalista, Heller’s Bakery & Cafe, Las Americas Dental Health, Lia Café Brazil, Mt. Pleasant Care Pharmacy, Old School Hardware, Tex-Mex Burrito, beau thai, Don Juan Restaurant, Past Tense Studio, Each Peach Market as well as the Mt. Pleasant Library at 16th and Lamont Streets.

Fiesta Asia Planning & Prep!

By Melor Suhaimi, AALEAD Staff
Photos Taken By Melor Suhaimi

This past Saturday, MD Middle School youth from AALEAD’s Middle School Youth Council and MD High School youth took part in preparing for Fiesta Asia!  Hosted by Asia Heritage Foundation, Fiesta Asia is a street fair celebrating Asian Pacific American Heritage month located in our Nation’s capital.  For the past few years, AALEAD youth has attended and performed at the street fair.  With street vendors lined up along the streets, performances happening all day, and the smell of delicious Asian cuisine in the air, AALEAD youth could not be any more excited to attend this year’s Fiesta Asia!

Marking AALEAD’s MD Middle School’s fourth Youth Council meeting on this past Saturday, AALEAD youth worked hard in all the planning and preparation for Fiesta Asia’s upcoming event happening this Saturday, May 17th.  Youth split into small groups and were designated to one of three work stations.  The first station involved the making of AALEAD banners for the AALEAD booth and parade.  At the second station, youth brainstormed and worked together in creating a trivia wheel that will be at the AALEAD booth to attract guests to come and learn more about AALEAD.  Lastly, at the third station, youth researched questions and answers for the trivia wheel.  AALEAD youth also folded brochures that will be placed at AALEAD’s booth to give more information about our organization.  Fiesta Asia guests who play the trivia wheel will have to answer questions and test their knowledge about different Asian countries.  Lucky winners will win special prizes!

All these ideas were made by MD’s Middle School Youth Council and it will be exciting to see the final products on the day of Fiesta Asia.  With the end of the 2013 – 2014 school year coming to an end, Fiesta Asia will be one of the last few events that a lot of our AALEAD youth will get to spend time together before summer vacation!  Here are a few pictures from Saturday’s planning day at MD Middle School’s fourth Youth Council meeting:

If YOU are interested in seeing all the final products and watching AALEAD’s dance performance, make sure to come out this Saturday, May 17th to Fiesta Asia!  AALEAD’s dance performance will be at 10:15am and will take place at The East Stage (located closest to 3rd St., NW.)  Our AALEAD youth worked really hard with all the planning and practiced (and are still practicing!) for their dance performance.  AALEAD youth will be looking forward to seeing YOU at Fiesta Asia!

AALEAD Receives Nancy Dworkin Award!

Asian American LEAD (AALEAD) received the 2014 Nancy Dworkin Oustanding Service to Youth Award in the Organization category at the 28th Annual Nancy Dworkin Outstanding Service to Youth Awards Ceremony last night at the Adventure Theatre-MTC in Glen Echo, Md.

AALEAD is honored to have been selected from among so many other organizations in Montgomery County for our service to youth. We would like to congratulate all other awardees in the various categories presented last night! AALEAD’s Board Members, Executive Director, and Staff are honored to be a part of a community who works tirelessly to provide all we can for our young people.

The program included remarks from Councilmember Nancy Floreen and Director of Department of Health and Human Services Uma Ahluwalia, and community youth who presented awards to each recipient. AALEAD was lucky to have a former AALEAD youth present our award!

This awards program is coordinated by the Montgomery County Commission on Children and Youth, made up of 27 committed volunteers, which advises the County Executive, County Council, Department of Health and Human Services, and the Board of Education on providing services to youth and families. The awards program is named in memory of Nancy Dworkin, the past chairperson of the Commission, who passed in 1987. She was the Director of the Center for Unique Learners, a Rockville school for children with learning disabilities, and was known for her teaching philosophy based on “teaching to strengthen.”

The  ceremony was sponsored by Adventure Theatre-MTC, Corporate Volunteer Council of Montgomery County, and The Gazette.