AALEAD’s MD High School Youth Speak Up!

By Ari Pak, MD High School Program Coordinator
Photo Courtesy of Ari Pak

Last night, MD AALEADers participated in a discussion on youth issues at the 8th Annual Youth Having a Voice Roundtable. Four AALEADers from Blair High School participated in a discussion hosted by the youth members of the Montgomery County Commission on Children and Youth.  The Roundtable was created to bring awareness of youth’s issues to County leaders, which therefore creates a foundation for educating the larger community about issues faced by our youth.  AALEADers engaged critically with twelve other Montgomery County youth, discussing the most critical issues affecting them, including cultural competence in schools and their desired life skills.

AALEAD youth reflected on their appreciation for the opportunity to learn from their peers and to make cross-cultural connections between their experiences. During the discussion, one AALEAD youth spoke to the power of creating common ground between people of different cultures. This example of practicing acceptance of cultural difference was modeled at the Roundtable discussion itself. Youth of different backgrounds shared openly about the issues most relevant to their lives and were received with warmness, understanding, and respect. Some youth shared about experiences relating to their racial, ethnic, or religious identities. While not all youth present shared these identities, all gained a better understanding the varied experiences of their peers.

Through the Roundtable discussion, AALEAD youth grew as community leaders in multiple ways. They learned about the different cultural issues affecting their peers and how to better support each other moving forward. In addition to generating cross-cultural understanding, they also directly impacted the agenda of the Montgomery County Commission on Children and Youth through the issues that they raised. AALEADers stepped into the opportunity provided by the Youth Having a Voice Roundtable and used their voice to shape the cultural landscape of Montgomery County.

**Please check back for more updates and details to come!**

Hello, Friends! Asian American LEAD (AALEAD) is excited to announce that our free fundraiser lunch, Aspire to LEAD, will be on Thursday, March 5, 2015, from 12 to 1 pm, at Woo Lae Oak restaurant in Tysons Corner, VA this year. Join us for an inspiring and empowering hour-long program over lunch. We truly look forward to having you with us!

Directions | For travel instructions, please click here. For a map, please click here. If you are taking the Metro, the closest stop the restaurant is Greensboro Metro Station (Silver Line). There is no walkway to the restaurant, but AALEAD staff will be able to provide shuttle transportation. Please include a note in your RSVP if you will need transportation from and to the Metro.

Parking | There is street parking in front of the restaurant and also a parking garage located next to the building.

Please RSVP by Thursday, February 26.
RSVP Contact: Sharon Choi, Development & Communications Manager | (202) 884-0322 x 104

Farewell from My

Immediately following college, I wanted to make a difference, and do something meaningful with my time.  That was how I found myself interested in working with AALEAD, and my time spent at AALEAD has been much more than just meaningful. But every hello ends with a goodbye. I just want to take this time to thank AALEAD’s staff for welcoming me into the organization and supporting me during my journey as the DC MS & HS Program Coordinator at AALEAD. I’ve had the opportunity to witness how the work of the staff is reflected by the progress of the youth. I am very grateful to have had the chance to work along side each and every one of you at AALEAD.

To the youth: thank you for allowing me to learn from you and letting me be a part of your path to success.

Once again, thank you!



Gifts for the Homeless Clothing Drive

By Keo Xiong, MD Middle School Program Coordinator
Photos Courtesy of AALEAD Staff

In the United States, 2.5 million children under 18 years old were homeless in 2013, according to a new report, “America’s Youngest Outcasts,” published by the National Center on Family Homelessness. To put that number into perspective, it means 1 in every 30 children is homeless. The most prevalent causes of homelessness include high rates of child and family poverty, the lack of affordable housing, continuing impacts of the Great Recession, racial/ethnic disparities among people experiencing homelessness, challenges of single parenting, and trauma. This statistic is a historic high for the nation, and a jarring reminder of the wealth, health, and ethno-racial disparities in America. How does this affect your communities, and how can you help?

This past weekend, AALEAD MD High School and Middle School youth spent their Saturday volunteering at Gifts for the Homeless’ annual clothing drive. Gifts for the Homeless, a nonprofit in the District of Columbia, collects donated new and used clothing and other essential items to distribute to over 70 shelters in the area. Twenty-six AALEAD youth, along with Gifts for the Homeless staff and other volunteers, helped sort clothing for distribution. AALEAD youth remained behind after the clothes sorting to clean the warehouse and help with recycling efforts.

After AALEAD youth finished their volunteer shift for the day, they participated in a reflection about their volunteerism and homelessness. The youth provided insightful answers and thoughts about the causes of homelessness, challenges faced by those experiencing homelessness, and their own positions and relative privileges. We are proud of AALEAD youth and their continuous commitment to giving back to the community by volunteering their time, not only during the holidays, but all throughout the year.

As the winter holidays approach and the temperatures continue to plummet, please take the time to reflect on your own position in this community and identify how you can support those in need. Whether you donate essential items like coats and toiletries, money, food, or even your time, every contribution helps.

To learn more about youth homelessness in America and download the report, visit

To learn more about Gifts for the Homeless and how you can help, visit

Reflections On My AALEAD Internship

By Dong Zhou, DC Elementary School Program Intern
Photos Courtesy of April Kim, DC Elementary School Program Teacher

The time passed by so fast. I can’t believe my fall internship is ending! This was my first internship ever, and I received many unique experiences from it.

First of all, I am touched by Asian American LEAD (AALEAD) staff members. They have fully dedicated themselves to the community that we serve, and they treat each other like family. Working with these wonderful people gave me much more knowledge than I could have ever received in class. I am truly thankful for the opportunity to intern at AALEAD.

Everyone at AALEAD is trying to work as hard as possible and solve problems as fast as possible. Micah, my supervisor, is always busy, and I barely saw her take some time to rest. She is occupied all the time, whether working or in a meeting. Also, how knowledgeable she is about so many fields shocked me! She knows Chinese; she can use multiple databases; and she is an expert at Excel. During programs, she has an amazing way of connecting with and teaching students; our youth respect her very much.

Interning at AALEAD also gave me the opportunity to learn more about both the American education system and American society. For the education part, my experience at Thomson Elementary School taught me more about how American elementary schools work and how youth development organizations like AALEAD collaborate with them. I learned that the United States has a society that is supported by multiple entities, such as government, corporations, non profit organizations, etc., and each of these entities is important and contributes to society in different ways.

I had a great experience interning at AALEAD and am very thankful for the opportunity to intern here. I will be sad to go but hope to visit soon. Thank you to AALEAD staff and all of the people that supported me during my time at AALEAD!

By Keo Xiong, MD Middle School Program Coordinator
Photos Courtesy of Keo Xiong, MD Middle School Program Coordinator

AALEADers love food. They love to eat food. They love talk about food. They love to cook food. They love to create new food dishes. In AALEAD, we spend a lot of time learning about different cultures and peoples through the foods they eat as well. This week, AALEAD youth at Argyle and Parkland Magnet Middle Schools participated in a career workshop to learn how they can turn their love of food into a career, and how food can bring people of all different backgrounds together.

Each month, AALEADers participate in different career and cultural cooking workshops. This week, we combined our career and cooking workshops into one. AALEAD board member Siu came to programs as a guest speaker and led an engaging workshop for youth about careers in the food service industry. She shared with the youth her upbringing working in her family’s small DC restaurant, her own career paths in and out of food service, and her challenges and successes as a long-time restaurant owner and cook. Like Siu, some youth also help out in their families’ locally-owned restaurants. It was great that these youth could relate to Siu’s story and see how their early experiences working and helping out in a restaurant can help them develop important leadership and job skills for their futures.

Youth then had the opportunity to learn some cooking skills. Siu demonstrated how to make a simple and delicious beef stir-fry. If any of these AALEADers didn’t know how to cook before, now they have one dish they can definitely cook on their own and a set of cooking skills to showcase. Youth also learned how they can create and combine new types of cuisine to reach a broad audience while still incorporating their own personal tastes. For example, owners of food trucks often create their own food dishes and recipes that may fuse together different cultural cuisines, and because they are mobile, can share their food with many people all over the city.

In every part of the world, food seems to always bring people together. This workshop brought together many people, including AALEAD board member, staff, and students; local restaurant owners and families; and youths from different backgrounds. The youth learned a lot as well about the variety of food-related careers they can pursue both in and beyond the food service industry, and how they can tailor these careers to their own interests, skills, and personalities.

Stay tuned for more updates from our next career and cultural cooking workshops. If you would like to volunteer your time to lead a career workshop, or any other educational workshop, for AALEAD youth, please contact Tina Ngo,Mentoring and Volunteer Programs Coordinator at

Another Addition! Welcome, Shobana!

Hello, everyone!  My name is Shobana and I have just joined the team at Asian American LEAD as the new DC Middle and High School Programs Coordinator.  I am very excited to be a part of AALEAD and to meet all of my youth! I graduated from the George Washington University, majoring in International Affairs concentrating in Sociocultural Anthropology. A few years after graduating, because of my fascination with other cultures and people, I decided to live and teach English abroad in China.  My first year, I taught middle and high school students in a small town in Hunan Province, while also implementing a series of service projects to further student’s engagement with English.  Some of the service projects included an online and published English magazine highlighting the students’ creativity, purchasing a new laptop complete with ESL software, and a Christmas Talent Show/competition.  My second year, I taught English and served as an NGO resource at a junior college for the physically disabled in Guangzhou.  I taught four classes focusing on oral English and culture and also got involved with many of the projects, events, and field trips happening on campus. Through this experience, I was able to learn more about each of my students’ hopes, dreams, aspirations, and how they viewed the world. Both years in China, I developed strong relationships with my students, which ignited my passion for working with youth and education.

While teaching in China, I was inspired to witness firsthand some of my initially shy students owning their voices and identities and I am grateful to continue in this line of work with the team at AALEAD.  I’m looking forward to starting this new chapter in my life.

MD Middle School Youth Council Leads the Way!

By Sevin H., Thanh N., and Sophia Y., MD Middle School Youth Council Members
Photos Courtesy of Thanh N. and Sophia Y., MD Middle School Youth Council Members

The MD Middle School Youth Council held its first meeting on Saturday, November 22nd. Thirteen youth from 5 different middle schools attended the meeting. These students became Youth Council Leaders through ways of voting, applications, and writing essays.

At this meeting, we met the other Youth Council Leaders and played an icebreaker activity to get to know each other better. It was a great meeting because we broke into our school groups to discuss and plan Student Service Learning (SSL) activities for our own schools. We are looking forward to meeting more youth and getting to connect with them across schools. We are also looking forward to leading activities in our middle school programs and gaining more leadership skills. We are excited to have the opportunity to collaborate with the MD High School Youth Council to plan the AALEAD Youth Summit and Fiesta Asia events. We had a very productive meeting and the future of AALEAD looks bright!

MD Middle School Program Coordinators Note: The MD Middle School Youth Council is made up of 20 elected youth leaders, 4 from each middle school. Youth Leaders meet bi-monthly with AALEAD program coordinators to plan in-class activities and field trips for their peers. In the next two weeks, these Youth Leaders will be facilitating after-school program meetings and leading SSL projects at their respective schools.

We are proud of these 20 youth for stepping up to be leaders and taking ownership of their AALEAD program. They are great role models for their peers and each other. Keep an eye out for the next blog post by the MD Middle School Youth Council Leaders. They will update the community on how their SSL activities went and what they have planned for 2015!

Message from the Executive Director

Asian American LEAD’s vision statement that we created this summer is: Asian American LEAD envisions a United States in which low-income and underserved Asian Pacific American youth, and youth of all backgrounds, are equipped with the tools and opportunities to define themselves and their own futures.

Today, I am reflecting on how far away from this vision we are. Today, the United States is not a place where ALL youth are provided the physical and emotional safety they need to be able “to define themselves and their own futures.”

How do we keep our youth safe? How do we create communities in which fear of difference is not the norm?

As we begin the Thanksgiving holiday, I know those of us who are able to keep the young people in our lives physically and emotionally safe feel thankful for that. I hope each of us reflects on what we are doing to make sure that we are nurturing safe spaces for all of our youth. There is much more that we all need to do to create a world that is safer and more inclusive.

An Accomplished Morning!

By Yuanlong, AALEAD DC Student
Photos Courtesy of Alex Jue, AALEAD Mentor & Tina Ngo, AALEAD Staff

Asian American LEAD (AALEAD) focuses on three different outcomes: Educational Empowerment, Identity Development, and Leadership. Every year, our youth work towards their leadership goals by participating in various community service activities across the greater DC Metro area. From creating cards for our veterans in the armed forces to volunteering at local homeless shelters, volunteering gives our youth the opportunity to learn about the importance of giving back and how they can make their communities a better place. This past weekend, four of our youth in the Mentoring Program volunteered with their mentors at SOME (So Others Might Eat) and the Central Union Mission. They had a great time volunteering together and wanted to share their experiences with the larger community. Check out a blog post by one of our students, Yuanlong, below! -Tina Ngo, Mentoring & Volunteer Program Coordinator

On Saturday, November 15, AALEAD students and their mentors came out to SOME to help out the homeless community. SOME, or So Others Might Eat, is a non-profit organization that helps give homeless people food to eat and a place to stay. We volunteered at SOME as a way to give back to the community and gain some experiences working in the kitchen (now I know how my parents felt washing dishes for me for half my life, and I’m grateful for them!).

During our stay at SOME, we had several different jobs. This included washing dishes and cups, clearing tables, and serving water and coffee. We all worked hard, and no matter which job we were assigned, we all still had fun doing it. This experience was a great way for some of the AALEAD family to create closer relationships with each other. Though it was hard waking up early in the morning to do some community service, we had an accomplished morning and all agreed that we would get together to do another community service event soon!

Special thanks to our friends at SOME (So Others Might Eat) and the Central Union Mission for giving our youth the opportunity to volunteer with them and learn more about the populations that they serve. We look forward to coming back and working with you again soon!