By Melor Suhaimi, MD Programs Manager
Photos Courtesy of Melor Suhaimi, MD Programs Manager

It’s the first month of the new year and our MD Middle School Youth Council has already begun planning for the rest of the school year!  The meeting took place on Saturday, January 10th.  Below, Melor, AALEAD’s MD Programs Manager, interviewed 2 MD MS Youth Council members, Rachel K. and Fucheng L., to get the latest updates from AALEAD’s MD MS Youth Council.

M:  Thanks for joining me today, Rachel and Fucheng!  What were some of the highlights from today’s meeting?

R:  I like how we got to share our thoughts on how to improve AALEAD’s booth at Fiesta Asia.  (Fiesta Asia Street Fair is an event that takes place in Washington D.C. in May held by Asia Heritage Foundation.) Every year at Fiesta Asia, we have the AALEAD booth to attract people to learn more about AALEAD and different Asian countries.  Last year, the MD MS Youth Council made a trivia wheel with questions about different Asian countries.  This year the booth will be like an AALEAD museum!  It will have traditional clothing, writing, and games from different Asian countries.

F:  We also talked about the Youth Summit.  For the past few years, in the summer, AALEAD’s HS youth led and planned a Youth Summit.  This year, MS youth will help with the Summit, too!

R:  Each school also planned an in-class Student Service Learning activity during the meeting.  For example, Argyle MS Youth Council Leaders decided that they’ll be making bookmarks for teachers.  And since Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is coming up, the bookmarks will have a space for teachers to write a dream or goal they’d like to achieve.  And it’ll have a special message encouraging them to read!

M:  To you, what does it mean to be a leader and a member of AALEAD’s MD MS Youth Council?

F:  To be a leader is to communicate well with others and to lead your group members to success.  And to work well with others.

R:  To be a youth council member, you get to be the voice of your school’s AALEAD program and you get to speak up for them.

M:  One word to describe how you’re feeling for the rest of the school year as part of AALEAD’s MD MS Youth Council.

R:  Excited!

F:  Hopeful!

DC Holiday Party Festivities!

By Shobana Modur, DC Middle and High School Program Coordinator

Photos courtesy of AALEAD Staff

On December 17th, the DC AALEAD team held their annual Holiday Party for the students at Thomson and Bancroft Elementary.  The event was held at Asbury Methodist Church with roughly 100 youth, family, and guests in attendance.  Before the program began, the DC Middle and High School student volunteers worked diligently to ensure the elementary students were having the best time!  Some activities included caricature drawings, ping-pong ball toss, face-painting, origami and snowflake-making, and ‘pin the nose’ on Olaf.  The elementary students were scrambling around to enjoy each and every event for the fabulous raffle prizes.

When the program began, DC Programs Manager, Micah, and Executive Director, Surjeet, said a few words about the remarkable young AALEADers and presented a video created by DC AALEAD teacher, Justin.  In this video, Justin asked his students their favorite memory with AALEAD.  One special portion of the night was when the students gave gifts to the AALEAD teachers for their hard work and dedication this past year.  Lastly, by the end of the night, each elementary school student was given a gift, thanks to our friends at Deloitte and the Office on Asian and Pacific Islander Affairs.

All in all, the holiday party was a huge success, as each student left with a gift and a big smile on their face!  A very special thanks to the DC AALEAD Middle and High School students, who volunteered their time before and after the party to help with gift-wrapping, decorating signs, and leading all of the pre-program activities.  Have a great holiday and here’s to the upcoming year!

VA Holiday Party 2014!

By: Shaima Ahmad – VA High School Coordinator

Photos Courtesy of Shaima Ahmad

AALEADers at Annandale High held their First Annual AALEAD Holiday Party! Twenty two students attended and co-hosted the event. Although this is the first year of programs in Virginia, it was wonderful to see how quickly our youth had made a connection to the AALEAD family.

The afternoon started off with an array of global cuisine – Fried Rice, Tempura, Gulaab Jamaan and much more. A few of our youth  baked some scrumptious goodies for all to share. After feasting and socializing the students were ready for some Karaoke!  Our tech  team set-up an elaborate A/V system, admired by all. The students took some time to warm up to the idea of singing in  front of their  peers, but soon the atmosphere became contagious. One by one the shyest of the shy, including myself, ventured up to  the mic. The  lead singers did an awesome job convincing the crowd and keeping the party alive.

All in all our students had a wonderful opportunity to bond with their AALEAD family and celebrate the holiday season. A huge shout out to all of those who helped make our holiday party a success! Wishing everyone a Joyous Holiday and a Happy New Year….Looking forward to 2015!

MD Holiday Party Festivities!

By Melor Suhaimi, MD Programs Manager
Photos Courtesy of AALEAD Staff

On Friday December 19th, AALEADers celebrated the holidays at the Holiday Park Senior Center in Wheaton, MD for AALEAD’s MD annual holiday party!  119 AALEAD youth, family, and guests attended the party to enjoy a night of laughs, fun, eating, and performances! For the past few years, AALEAD has hosted the party at the Holiday Park Senior Center where it has been an ideal place to showcase our youth’s talents and to enjoy a night of good food. The night kicked off with a special serenade of “Happy Birthday!” to AALEAD’s Executive Director, Surjeet, because the 19th was her birthday, too! Soon after, AALEAD youth and guests lined up to receive a delicious meal courtesy of Blue Pearl Buffet Restaurant.

Throughout the night as guests walked around the room, they may have noticed special decorations all along the walls.  These decorations were made by AALEAD MD’s middle and high school youth during AALEAD’s after-school programs on days leading up to the holiday party.  Decorations varied from Frozen characters, The Grinch, to a train headed to The North Pole filled with Pokemon characters!  AALEAD youth definitely used their imagination and creativity to create a beautiful holiday-themed setting.

The talent show portion of the holiday party is always the most exciting part!  AALEAD’s Parent Outreach Coordinator and one of the MC’s of the night, Charles, described that each and every one of our AALEAD youth is talented in their own way.   This is very true and the holiday party is just one of our many events where AALEAD showcases the talent of our amazing youth.  Youth performances included singing, dancing, reciting poetry, to a kung fu demonstration.  A memorable night of the evening was when HS AALEADer, Dee L. dedicated the song, “Titanium” to AALEAD’s Development & Communications Manager, Sharon.  Dee expressed how Sharon was always there for her during her middle school years when Sharon was one of AALEAD’s MD Middle School Program Coordinator at Eastern Middle School.  It was such a heartfelt moment and the love was tremendously felt around the room!

All in all, it was a successful and festive night!  The holidays are always a great time to see our AALEAD youth gather to enjoy each other’s company and to just remind us that we are an AALEAD family.  Special thank you to Robin Riley from Montgomery County Recreation Department, Dolores Ustrell-Roig from Holiday Park Senior Center and Blue Pearl Buffet Restaurant Manager Irma for the Center and food!  Have a great holiday and looking forward to the new year!

Message from the ED: Happy Holidays!

From all of us at Asian American LEAD, best wishes for this holiday season!

We have had a whirlwind of holiday celebrations closing out 2014 with our youth.  I love this time of year where I get to see our full AALEAD community celebrating together.  This may be a record year for the number of youth, family, and community members celebrating with us.  I have been lucky enough to celebrate with our youth across the region – in DC, Montgomery County, and Fairfax.

Karaoke at the VA Holiday Party

Watching the Program at the DC Party

With our Board Chair and some of our MD youth

With all of this wonderful energy, I am so excited to see what 2015 can bring for AALEAD and our youth!  With all of us Aspiring to LEAD, the possibilities are limitless.

Happy Holidays!

Deck the Halls with AALEADers!

By Jin, AALEAD DC Student
Photos Courtesy of Tina Ngo, AALEAD Staff

This past weekend, seven AALEAD Mentoring Program pairs celebrated the holidays by participating in our first ever Mentoring Program Holiday Fair! From making gingerbread houses to decorating cards for our troops and even posing in some silly photos at our makeshift Holiday Photo Booth, mentors and mentees had a wonderful time getting to know one another and sharing some holiday cheer. Check out a poem about the event from one of our DC youth, Jin, below!

Let the holidays begin with joy and light.
Celebrating with joy on every night
A party is hosted and all will greet
The people all around and all to meet.
Gingerbread houses, peppermint kisses, and more,
It’s a celebration like never before.
Bring your friends, family, and the ones you love.
Drink hot chocolate under the stars above.
Take pictures of silly faces to remember this day.
There’s never so much smiles on just one day.
AALEAD is the place to always say “cheese,”
With everyone dancing, including me!

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