By Francine Gorres, AALEAD Staff
Photos Courtesy AALEAD Staff

Good Afternoon!

As we start to close programs for 2013, I would like to share some topics we have been working on in our High School Program. But, before I begin…let’s take a trip back down memory lane:

Do you remember what it was like in high school? Maybe you had a small group of friends… played basketball or tennis…joined clubs and groups in high school…or maybe you went home to study and do homework.  In one way or another we were trying to figure out…Who am I? What am I good at? These questions were not very easy to answer as teenagers and are still not easy to answer even in adulthood as we pursue different career paths.

In our programs we try to help our youth answer some of these questions through identity workshops, where students are able to discuss and reflect on different aspects of their identity. Some students talked about their families and relationships, while others talked about hobbies and personality traits as important aspects of their identity. One student said, “I found [the workshops] interesting and deep. I like talking about things like this.”

Through these workshops we are able to share with one another our stories, and create a safe space to connect and support one another.

By Melor Suhaimi, AALEAD Staff
Photos Courtesy of AALEAD Staff

This past Saturday, MD AALEAD youth attended the annual Gifts for the Homeless clothing drive. Gifts for the Homeless is a local non-profit organization “that serves the homeless of the Washington, DC area..” ( And every year, Gifts for the Homeless holds a clothing drive where the clothes get sorted and folded for homeless shelters. Volunteers from all over the area attend – including our AALEAD youth.

Our MD AALEAD youth spent three hours going through bags of donated clothing and sorting them into groups such as men and women business wear, toddler clothing, to bags and accessories.  There were hundreds of bags of clothes once everything was folded and sorted. Later that day, Gifts for the Homeless transported the bags to local homeless shelters.  By the end of the day, AALEAD youth learned the importance of giving back as we try to express with our youth with all of our community service events.  A few students who attended our last community service event at DC Central Kitchen saw first-hand the homeless community in DC.  And with that in mind, a few students mentioned the need of warm clothing for the homeless people they met sitting outside of DC Central Kitchen.  It was another great community service event and a learning experience for our AALEAD youth!

By Melor Suhaimi, AALEAD Staff
Photos Courtesy of AALEAD Staff

To further challenge AALEAD’s Middle School youth, MD Middle School staff decided on creating leadership roles for our youth by establishing the very first AALEAD MD Middle School Youth Councils.  And MD Middle School staff knew that our youth was up for the challenge!  Four leadership roles were created to be a part of the Youth Council; President, Secretary, Events Coordinator, and Treasurer.  The five Middle Schools; Loiederman, Argyle, Eastern, Parkland, and Newport Mill each have a Youth Council to represent their school.

During the first few weeks of November, MD MS programs introduced the idea of campaigning and encouraged youth to sign-up for a leadership role.  For each youth signed up, they were then asked to create their own campaign team to encourage “voters” (the remaining youth in the program) to vote for them!  After two weeks of campaigning, the youth voted and our Youth Councils were established!

On Saturday, November 23rd, 20 students braved the early morning to attend Asian American LEAD’s very first MD Middle School Youth Council meeting!  The meeting started off with group-building activities for our youth leaders to get to know each other a little better.  Then, the four leadership positions were grouped off to let youth further understand their role as either a President, Secretary, Events Coordinator, or Treasurer.  Since the MD’s Holiday Party is coming up soon, the first task given to the Youth Council were the planning of decorations for our Holiday Party.  Youth brainstormed and came to a conclusion that this year’s Holiday Party will be Santa’s Workshop!  In the past few weeks, each Youth Council has shared this information to their peers in their program and the production of the decorations has commenced!

The MD MS Youth Council even had the opportunity to meet current youth of our MD High School Youth Council, during the meeting.  Leading  a 15 minute panel, our MD High School Youth Council shared their experiences as being a leader and challenges that the MD MS Youth Council may need to overcome by working as a group.  It was exciting to see AALEAD’s MD High School Youth mentoring our Middle School youth and giving such great advice!  Overall, it was a successful first meeting for our very first MD Middle School Youth Council!

By MinhAn Nguyen, AALEAD Elementary School Program Intern
Photos Courtesy of MinhAn Nguyen, AALEAD Elementary School Program Intern

48 hours! That is the approximate amount of time I have left in Washington D.C. before leaving the capital, the East Coast, and, most importantly, my internship with AALEAD.

My experience working as an Elementary School Program Intern has been amazing! I could not have asked for a better staff to work with. Since Day One, everyone – from the administrative to the on-site staff – has been very welcoming and supportive.  That’s how I knew that I made the right decision to spend the past 11 weeks working with AALEAD!

As for the students, their soaring energy and curiosity reminded me of the reasons why I am passionate about education every day. Aside from learning how to plan lessons and manage the classroom, working with the students has taught me so many things about youth that I was not aware of before.

For example, a box of candy will give you more authority in the classroom than anything else you can think of.  I also learned countless riddles, became a hangman expert, and experienced what it is like to be a kid again!

However, on a more serious note, working with these students and learning about each and every one of them has helped me recognize that these students have the potential to become something great, and I believe AALEAD is instrumental in helping these students get to where they want to be.

Although my internship with AALEAD is coming to an end, the memories with AALEAD and everything that I have learned here will always be with me as I continue on!

“One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.” –Henry Miller

AALEAD Blazes the Trails!

By Antwoine Johnson, AALEAD Staff
Photos Courtesy of AALEAD Staff

This past Saturday, AALEAD Newport Mill laced up their hiking boots, readied their sig bottles, and prepped their oxygen masks as we hiked up the Sugarloaf Mountain in Dickerson, MD.

The prep started before the actual event, using my culinary skills I created lunch consisting of sandwiches and granola bars which, as you can probably imagined, was pretty tough work but I was able to manage.

The next day, Keo and I drove the AALEADmobile aka the van to Wheaton Metro Station. While there was not the number that was expected, we were greeted by two members of AALEAD Newport Mill, Alex and Sophie, both from the 8th grade. After we did a mild debriefing, Team NEWPORT MILL was off!

They say that a picture is worth a thousand words so I will let our photos do the talking about the most epic of adventures that AALEAD has ever  had……….

The Mountain was perilous and unforgiving..........


So we headed out and marched............

And marched.................


Thanks for the memories, NEWPORT MILL!

Message from the ED: A Month of Thanks

As we approach Thanksgiving, all of us at AALEAD have many things for which we are thankful.  I am thankful for many things personally, including being part of this wonderful AALEAD community.  I feel incredibly lucky to spend my days doing work to level the playing field and seeing the impact of that work in our youth.

Thank you to our youth for stepping up to new challenges and getting out of your comfort zones!  I am so inspired seeing you take advantage of new opportunities.

Thank you to our staff for your steadfast commitment to our youth.  I know you all do this work because of your own personal dedication and motivation.

Thank you to our mentors and volunteers for taking time out of your busy lives to develop meaningful relationships with our young people so that they know there is a community that cares for them.

Thank you to all of our donors – individuals, companies, foundations, and government agencies – for sustaining AALEAD’s work and making it possible for us to provide support and opportunities to our youth.

Thank you to our Board of Directors for your incredible commitment to AALEAD youth and for your stewardship of our organization.

Happy Thanksgiving to you all!


ES AALEADers Tackle a TOP SECRET Mission!

By MinhAn Nguyen, AALEAD Elementary School Program Intern
Photos Courtesy of AALEAD Staff

“What is a mission?” an elementary student at Thomson Elementary School asked me as I handed out the TOP SECRET document. Click here to access the Secret Document!

As Thanksgiving approaches, AALEAD encouraged students to learn more about sharing and giving. We gave students a new identity and mission for this week: to do one kind thing for a classmate.  Prior to handing out the mission, our class discussed the idea of kindness and what it means to be kind to someone. Students suggested ideas such as sharing pencils, making cards, and helping each other with homework. Many of the students were so excited about the project that they wanted to get started on it right away!

We are super excited to see what AALEADERs will come up with by the end of the mission!

In addition to kindness, another focus for AALEADERs this week was to learn to express their emotions. Through activities such as Charades and Taboo, students dramatically acted out emotions for their classmates to guess such as: happiness, nervousness, sadness, anger, and excitement.

By participating in the games, students learned that it is very difficult to know what a person is feeling just by looking at them. Students learned that we should pay close attention to details such as facial expressions and body language and ask questions to know how someone is really feeling.

By Francine Gorres, AALEAD Staff
Photos Courtesy of AALEAD Staff

On Saturday, November 16 2013, four AALEAD High School students woke up bright and early to attend the Korean Women’s International Network DC Leadership Seminar for Korean-American Women:”Leadership Serving the Needs of Our Local and Global Community. Throughout the day students were able to listen to the stories of Korean Women and their stories of giving back to the community. From starting NGO’s to public service and leadership, many of the women at the seminar gave powerful messages about giving back to the community.

Our youth were inspired by the words of all of the women at the event and learned about leadership, career paths, and having self-confidence. In addition to the mentoring students received, AALEAD staff encouraged students to learn more about different cultures and to try and find common experiences. Our young men did an excellent job networking, listening, and learned more about some struggles Asian American women face in the workplace. These young people continue to push themselves to be better leaders and AALEAD is so proud of them for actively participating and representing high school youth!

AALEAD at the DC Central Kitchen!

By Antwoine Johnson, AALEAD Staff
Photos Courtesy of Melor Suhaimi, AALEAD Staff

This past Monday, Novemeber 11th, AALEAD middle school students and staff took a trip down to DC to volunteer at the DC Central Kitchen.

The DC Central Kitchen is an organization that, among its many other programs, gathers and makes healthy meals, then distributes it to homeless shelters, schools, and other agencies around the DC Metropolitan area. AALEADers met at Wheaton Metro immediately after ending their half day at school, then traveled down to DC Central Kitchen. Students learned more about the purpose and origin of the Kitchen before starting their volunteer shift preparing food in the kitchen.

AALEADers participated in the “great American turkey pull,” as the director put it, where we divided into teams and were given huge trays of baked turkey and chicken. Our job: to pull off every piece of meat those birds had to offer! It was a daunting task and some of us were hungry but we fought temptation and came out on top. Two hours later, we had buckets of shredded turkey and chicken meat ready to be made into delicious meals to be distributed to the community.

We are proud of the 15 AALEADers who came out to help on Monday, and thank them for volunteering their time for an organization that does so much for the DC community. We would also like to thank DC Central Kitchen for giving AALEAD students this opportunity to serve our community and give back. We look forward to bringing more students back to DC Central Kitchen in the future.

Join AALEAD for Giving Tuesday, December 3!

Asian American LEAD (AALEAD) will participate in Giving Tuesday, an annual national effort by individuals, groups, companies and organizations to promote charitable giving, this year! This year’s Giving Tuesday is on December 3, 2013. Mark your calendars!

After the Black Friday and Cyber Monday shopping craze, consider giving on this special day where people all over the United States AND abroad participate to raise awareness on the good work organizations do in the community and ultimately, raise funds to go towards charities! This is exciting news for AALEAD as we know we have a wonderful community of people in the region who are deeply committed to the mission and work of our organization and youth and are looking for a way to give back.

We have seen the POWER and lasting IMPACT that AALEAD After School, Summer, and Mentoring Programs have had and continue to have on our youth. We have seen AALEADers become more confident in themselves, learn how to build community through team work, acquire new skills and experience new activities.

Please join AALEAD on Giving Tuesday, December 3, 2013 and help us spread the good word AND reach a fundraising goal of $2,500 to go towards our AALEAD After School, Summer and Mentoring Programs serving low-income and underserved Asian American youth!

1. Mark your calendars and encourage your community to do so as well! DECEMBER 3
2. Visit our secure Donation Page and make your contribution (starting at 12:01 a.m.!).
3. Spread the word on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. and let everyone know that you are a part of the #GivingTuesday effort and that you supported #AALEAD and #youth! Don’t forget to TAG US!
4. Encourage your family, friends, colleagues, and neighbors to join the movement for good!

We hope to see you on Giving Tuesday, friends! Visit our Facebook (Asian American LEAD) and Twitter (@aalead) to stay tuned!

Questions? Please contact Sharon Choi,