MS Youth Council Meeting

By Antwoine Johnson, AALEAD Staff
Photos by Youth Council Member

This past Saturday, the Asian American LEAD (AALEAD) Middle School Youth Council came together to represent their peers in the organization and planning for Fiesta Asia and the Youth Media Project.

Fiesta Asia is an annual street festival where different Asian organizations come and celebrate Asian and Asian American cultures, increasing the awareness and knowledge of the people who come to the event. AALEAD will have a booth at the event, where our youth decided to have trivia questions and prices in order to teach people facts and to motivate them to answer questions about the countries being represented by AALEAD such as Sir Lanka and the Phillipines. Each middle school will be coming up with questions to assist in this trivia game.

For the Youth Media Project, the students  ironed out a script for the short video about identity and then hashed out a storyboard, using the skills and techniques given to them by Amy and Wyman from DC APA Film, Inc..  Stay tuned for more updates on the video project!


AALEADers Participate in a Media Workshop!

By Antwoine Johnson, AALEAD Staff
Photos by Melor Suhaimi, AALEAD Staff

This past Tuesday, the AALEAD Middle School Youth Council and some of our high school youth had the chance to participate in a film making workshop with  Amy and Wyman, videographers from the DC Asian Pacific American Film, Inc.  Middle and high school AALEAD students came to the MD Office and were taught how to take different angles, use lighting for different effects and create different emotions in a scene.  AALEADers then had a chance to play around with the cameras and lights, putting what they just learned to practice.

Our workshop hosts also addressed the art of creating a scene that is visually appealing in such a way that it does not shock the eye. For example, Amy stressed the importance of not going from a wide shot straight into a tight shot. It was an informative time for both the Council and AALEAD staff.

Our Middle School Youth Council reconvened after the workshop and began to plan how they would begin to create their videos for their projects.  Our youth are able to participate in the video project thanks to support provided by the Gandhi Brigade. We are using media to discuss Asian American issues with our youth. The project will be made up of several short 3-minute videos to address topics as stereotypes, Asian American identity, and living as a person, outside the stereotype. Our youth are enjoying engaging in some hard hitting introspection and conveying who they are to a world that may not always understand them as a person. Stay tuned for our video projects!

A huge shout out and thank you to Amy and Wyman from DC APA Film!

Coming Up…AALEAD’s 15th Annual Dinner!

We can’t believe we are just 4 weeks out from our 15th Annual Dinner on Wednesday, March 26, 2014! We are very excited to celebrate nearly 16 years of Asian American LEAD’s (AALEAD) accomplishments at our event at the Silver Spring Civic Building in Downtown Silver Spring with our community.

Let’s take a quick peek at two Annual Dinner highlights from the past two years. Check out the video clips and photos below for a quick blast to the past! *Details for this year’s 15th Annual Dinner at the end of the post!*

13th Annual Dinner – AALEAD Alumni Speaker Zefanya

14th Annual Dinner – AALEAD Alumni Speaker Lan-Anh (snippet)

14th Annual Dinner – AALEAD Board Speaker Siu

Photos from Past Annual Dinners!

15th Annual Dinner – Wednesday, March 26, 6:30 p.m.

We are so excited for an evening of networking and celebrating AALEAD’s accomplishments. Guests will kick off the night with a networking reception  (hors d’oeuvres provided by Hollywood East Cafe), hear stories and testimonies from speakers, and then mingle with some of the DC Metropolitan area’s top community, business and government leaders while enjoying dinner by Szechuan Delight. We are also happy to announce that our host this year will be Ms. Kathy Park from ABC7/News Channel 8! For travel instructions and a map of the Civic Building, click here.


ONLINE Donation Page. Please indicate you are purchasing a ticket/table for this event.
CHECK Written out to “Asian American LEAD” and sent to 2100 New Hampshire Ave., NW, Washington, DC 20009.

Individual Ticket: $125
Former AALEAD Staff/Alumni: $50
Table of Ten: $1,000 (or $100 per person)
Click here for Sponsorship Packages

Contact: Sharon Choi, Development & Communications Manager
(202) 884-0322 x 104

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

Last week, the AALEAD Mentoring Advisory Council (MAC) met for the second time! After everyone had a chance to settle in, the meeting began with a brief discussion on the role of mentors and how to maximize your time with your mentor. This portion of the meeting was led by Bhadon, an AALEAD student who has been matched with his mentor for almost three years. Since MAC is composed of youth who are both new to and familiar with the Mentoring Program, many of the newer students had questions, while the veteran students were eager to share their insights. This part of the session set a really great tone for what the remainder of the year will look like as youth were engaged and excited to talk about their experiences with their peers.

After everyone’s questions were answered, students began to jot down suggestions about events that they would like to have later in the year. From writing about the importance of holding a park clean-up and keeping our Earth clean to listing potential universities to check out for a college visit, youth were enthusiastic about taking ownership of their program and had many wonderful ideas. Youth then volunteered with our younger Thomson AALEADers! They helped read to the little ones, participated in a group activity, and assisted some of the students with their homework. Volunteering with the younger AALEADers is the part of the day that the MAC students look forward to the most as many of them have siblings who are still enrolled in our after-school programs, and many of the MAC youth themselves also attended our Thomson Elementary School Program when they were younger.

We are so proud of our MAC students who continue to challenge themselves and play an active role in making our community a better place. Until next time!

Message from the ED: February Update!

It’s been a busy, albeit snow-filled, month as we lead up to our 15th Annual Dinner on March 26!  I truly hope to see many of you there as we celebrate AALEAD’s past, present, and future.

As some of you have seen, AALEAD has the honor of being part of the Giving Library.  The Laura and John Arnold Foundation has generously featured us and created the videos about our work.  Our hope is that being part of the Giving Library will broaden the network of people who know about AALEAD!  And if you log in to the Giving Library website and share our video by Friday, the Arnold Foundation will contribute $5 to AALEAD for each share!  Thank you to all of you who have already helped.

I also want to take this moment to give thanks to AALEAD’s Board.  Our Board members are all incredibly caring and hardworking individuals who volunteer endless hours of time for AALEAD.  This past weekend, we had our yearly Board retreat and it was such a productive and energizing time.  We capped off the day with a celebration with staff.  It is a wonderful thing for all of us to be doing work we believe in deeply with great people who help to make it even more meaningful.  Thank you, Board members, for being a critical part of our AALEAD community!


By Melor Suhaimi, AALEAD Staff
Video by Melor Suhaimi, AALEAD Staff

On Thursday, February 13th, David, our Development and Communications Intern reported on our MD MS AALEADers hard at work making Vietnamese Banh Mi and planning for their Vietnamese water puppet shows. Leading up to this day, Eastern and Loiederman AALEADers learned about Vietnam and a traditional art form of water puppetry. Our Vietnamese AALEADers even shared their experiences in Vietnam. A few of our AALEAD youth were born in Vietnam and many were born here in the United States and has visited the country. From both perspectives, it was interesting to hear what they knew about Vietnam. Youth discussed how jam-packed the roads of Vietnam are with motorcycles taking over every lane to the many delicious Vietnamese dishes, like Pho and Banh Mi!

As youth began planning their Vietnamese water puppet shows, ideas for a theme were being thrown around and discussed. One group decided on recreating the Chinese zodiac story, which was mentioned in a previous program day a couple of weeks ago. Another group decided on doing a similar story to Finding Nemo with having the moral of the story as, “Never give up!” All youth worked together collaboratively and creatively to design their water puppets as well. Youth were given limited supplies, but the puppets turned out great. Below is a video of photos and clips of a few of the group performances of the Vietnamese water puppet shows from Loiederman and Eastern Middle Schools.


By Francine Gorres, AALEAD Staff
Photos Courtesy of AALEAD Staff and Students

This past weekend AALEAD High School Students participated in one the most historic events involving Asian American college youth, the East Coast Asian American Student Union (ECAASU) Conference. You may have heard about AALEAD participating in ECAASU last year, where we brought a few of our AALEAD youth to New York City to participate in the Conference at Columbia University.  This year, the ECAASU Conference was hosted by a group of colleges in the Washington D.C. area and had over 1,000 attendees registered!

So why was this year so special for our students?

This year we had AALEAD students represented in several different aspects of this Conference. From volunteers, to participants, to members of the National Board, it was truly great to see our youth engaged in different levels. We even ran into AALEAD Alumni at the Conference!  On the volunteer side, 13 AALEAD youth, participated and assisted ECAASU Directors with various tasks. They helped set up for workshops, assisted with crowd control, distributed lunches to attendees, and even helped sell some t-shirts. On the participant side, 4 AALEAD youth were represented in ECAASU’s newly launched High School Leadership Ambassadors Program where they are able to connect with other Asian American youth from New York and discuss Asian American issues. And finally, we had one AALEAD student represented on the ECAASU National Board who had been working so very hard with the ECAASU Directors to make this conference possible.

As I watched the students engage with facilitators, speakers, and other college students, it was truly remarkable to watch our students take full advantage of the opportunity and begin to fit in with the crowd.  We had two main goals for this field trip: 1. Give AALEAD students the opportunity to experience College Student Leadership, and 2. Allow students to process and reflect on how they can take this experience back to plan their Annual Summer APA Youth Summit.

In the morning, I challenged each of the students to at least chat with some of the workshop facilitators and to get their contact information in-case we wanted to invite them to the Youth Summit. Each student participated in one workshop and included topics such as the Bamboo Ceiling, Asian Americans and Law, Mental Health, Leadership, Passions vs. Career, Hepatitis B, and Asian American Identity.  I’m proud to say that every AALEAD student spoke to a facilitator and over half of our students asked and received business cards!

Out of the 18 students that attended ECAASU, 15 students had never attended an Asian American conference of this magnitude. Majority of these young students are sophomores, very quiet, come from immigrant families, and are only beginning to scrape the surface of their leadership potential. Our hope is that with opportunities like this and more experiential learning, students will become more exposed, inspired, and will attain some important skills that will make them successful students, leaders, and ultimately better people.

Special thank you to the 2014 ECAASU Conference Committee, especially Christina Bui, Annie and Bonnie Yan, Aneena Sin, and Linh Tran, for being so hospitable to our high school youth and for making this conference possible! You ladies rock!

On a warm sunny day like this, I think a jumping photo is in order to celebrate the success of the 2014 ECAASU Conference, Washington D.C.

MD High School Students Share their Stories!

By Francine Gorres, AALEAD Staff
Photos Courtesy of AALEAD Staff

During our MD High School AALEAD After School Program, students learn about how they can be their own kind of leader. Not only through obtaining skills, but also through gaining experience. This spring, our AALEAD MD High School students will be taking on different leadership roles in programs to gain more hands-on experience. Some students will be volunteering as middle school mentors, serving on our AALEAD Annual Asian Pacific American (APA) Youth Summit Planning Committee,  while others will be taking active roles in our Spring Media Project addressing stereotypes about Asian Americans.

In order to develop a message for our Media Project, youth  participated in a silent story-telling activity that helped them to conceptualize the impact of story-telling. In order to maintain a safe environment, students were asked to write about themselves without revealing their identity.  I told my students, “If you want this video to make an impact, you’ve got to share something honest. Tell me something REAL.” The idea behind this was to get students to share their stories to realize that they could impact not only adults, but more importantly each other. Later, these stories would be intertwined to create a collective message for Asian American Youth and would serve as the starting point for their Media Project addressing Asian American stereotypes.

From sharing stories of broken families to feeling overwhelmed by high academic expectations to feeling like they didn’t fit in, our students had a lot to share on paper. Reading these stories made such an incredible impact on me as AALEAD Staff and even brought back feelings I had as an Asian American youth.  For many of our youth this was the first time they had ever shared stories about their families with one another..and it completely surprised them.

“I didn’t know that I could relate to another person’s story.”
“It was such a powerful story because it was so personal. I really liked it.”
“It made an impact on me because this person went through a lot.”

No words can really describe how incredibly brave the youth were in sharing their stories of struggle with one another. It was an incredible privilege to have witnessed such a beautiful moment in the program and I am excited to see how this Media Project develops!

By Keo Xiong, AALEAD Staff
Photos Courtesy of AALEAD Staff

Happy Lunar New Year and Year of the Horse! This year’s Lunar New began on Friday, January 31
st and recently just ended on February 14th.

What is Lunar New Year?
Lunar New Year, celebrated by a number of East and South East Asian communities, is a holiday that welcomes in a new year, as based on the traditional Chinese calendar. It falls on a different date each year but always between January 21st and February 20th.

How long does Lunar New Year last?
Lunar New Year celebrations last about two weeks, or 15 days.

Who celebrates Lunar New Year?
Lunar New Year is celebrated by a number of Asian countries and communities. Though known by different names in each community, the following all align with the traditional Chinese calendar:
China: Lunar New Year
Vietnam: Tet Nguyen Dan – “Feast of the First Morning of the First Day”
Japan: Koshogatsu – “Little New Year”
South Korea: Seollal
Mongolia: Tsaagan Sar – “White Moon”
Tibet, Nepal: Losar – “New Year”
Each community celebrates the new year differently but also share some similar activities. The most well-known is that of the Chinese Lunar New Year.

How is Lunar New Year celebrated?
During Lunar New Year, Chinese families and individuals will participate in a number of activities. Cleaning of the house, buying new clothes, and similar activities symbolize a fresh start to the new year. Families also hold feasts and visit relatives. In cities and towns that hold parades, lion and dragon puppets adorn the streets and in performances. These animals are believed to bring good luck. Additionally, the color red can be seen everywhere, as it is the color of luck.

How did AALEAD celebrate Lunar New Year?
At Argyle and Parkland Middle Schools, AALEADers learned about the Chinese zodiac and created their own red envelopes. The Chinese zodiac, similar to the horoscope, assigns an animal to a year. There are 12 animals total, one belonging to each year and continuing in a cycle. Each animal has its own unique traits and characteristics, and, depending on what year you are born, it is believed that those born in a given year will share the same traits and characteristics as their zodiac animal. After the youth learned about the zodiac and played a guessing game in which they had to act out zodiac animals’ characteristics, they learned about the significance of the red envelopes.

In Chinese tradition, during Lunar New Year, children and young people often receive small red envelopes containing money. The envelopes are red, which is a color of luck, and usually have gold writing on the outside. During programs, AALEAD youth cut and folded their own envelopes, then decorated them. Each youth then received gold foil-covered chocolates to put in their envelopes to represent money. Traditionally, however, red envelopes contain bills so as to avoid bulky envelopes and make it hard to judge how much money is inside.

Lunar New Year is one of the most important holidays in Asian communities that celebrate it. If you didn’t know about Lunar New Year before, now you do. Every year, cities throughout the U.S. hold festivals and parades for Lunar New Year. Keep this holiday on your radar and check out next year’s celebrations in your cities and communities.

By Francine Gorres, AALEAD Staff
Photos Courtesy of AALEAD Staff

In honor of Martin Luther King’s Birthday, students in the AALEAD HS Program reflected on the Civil Rights Movement and what Martin Luther King’s dream meant for the people of the United States. Students participated in a timeline activity and were able to learn more about what happened in the 1960s for Asian Americans, and boy were they surprised! From Yuri Kochiyama to the Immmigration Act of 1965 to fighting for Ethnic Studies programs, the 1960s were full of events directly affecting and including Asian Americans.  Here is what one of our students had to say about the activity:

“It was a usual school day and the last period of the bell rang. I met up with my best friend and we headed to the room where AALEAD would be held. Our topic that day was the Civil Rights Movement and Asians. We were told to stand under a year which represented when our parents were born. Francine told us [to imagine what life was like when] all of this was going on and I was pretty surprised because I had never thought about it.  I learned a lot about the people from my continent that school doesn’t teach! I learned so much in such a short amount of time. What angers me is the fact I don’t get to learn about Asians in the Civil Rights Movement [in school]. Asians are [part of American] history. They were there and they should be acknowledged.”

Students were then asked, “Imagine that it’s the 1960s and you are surrounded by people who want to create change. What are some things you would want to change with the help of your peers?” Students talked about the challenges of bullying and how mental health is becoming an issue for many of their peers. They said that many students struggle with depression and stress, but rarely seek help or tell their friends. Students also wanted to change the college admissions process and wished that more opportunities could be given to students to attend 4 year universities. It was great to see our students come alive through learning about Asian American history. They even wanted to learn more! Activities like this truly help our students to think critically not only about Education & History, but also about their own personal identities, values, and beliefs.