A New Year with AALEAD High School!

AALEAD High School Program at Blair 2012-2013

By: Francine Gorres, AALEAD Staff
Photo Courtesy of AALEAD Staff

With programs a week away, one of the goals for the MD High School program is to recruit brand new students to be a part of the AALEAD family.

Over these past few weeks, I have met with new high school students to invite them to be a part of the program.  First impressions with high school youth can be awkward and intimidating, but also exciting and fun.  New youth always have something great to teach coordinators. For example, how valuable it is to listen and to be genuine. We spent time eating lunch together, learning more about each of our interests, and talking about family. Students were able to connect on similar values and culture and were interested in the AALEAD program. It was nice to have lunch with the youth and I’m hopeful that our connection will spark their interest to join our program!

Intern Introduction: Greetings from MinhAn!

By MinhAn Nguyen, AALEAD Intern
Photos by MinhAn Nguyen, AALEAD Intern

Hi everyone, my name is MinhAn, and I am super excited to be the new Fall 2013 Elementary School Program Intern! I was born in Saigon, Vietnam, and I migrated to the Silicon Valley in 2002 with my family. I am currently pursuing an International Relations degree with UC Davis. Upon graduation, I hope to dedicate my time to assist students from the United States and foreign countries in traveling and studying abroad.  I, myself, love to travel, and my top three destinations are Japan, Egypt, and the Czech Republic! Please let me know if you’re interested in visiting these places; I would love to share my experiences in these amazing countries with you.  However, as much as I love to travel, I have decided to settle in Washington D.C. for the next 3 months.

Despite the large population of Vietnamese people living in Silicon Valley, it was definitely not easy for me to integrate into the schools I attended and the community at first.  It was through the AmeriCorps Young Heroes program that I found  the support I needed to build up my self-esteem,  which helped me to be successful  (academically and socially) throughout  my years in middle school as well as high school. As a result, I want to be able to provide the same guidance and support to the Asian American elementary students living in the area during my time here in Washington D.C. I believe that by working together with AALEAD, I’ll be able to create a big impact on the lives of Asian American students, who will contribute great things to this constantly developing and globalizing world.

Back to AALEAD Elementary School Programs

First grade AALEADer shows off his assignment on Seasons

Fall is finally here which means two things at AALEAD –  students are back in school and AALEAD’s Elementary After School Programs are in full swing. On September 3rd, we resumed our school year programs at Thomson and Bancroft Elementary School with some new faces and lots of returning friends.

Students and their AALEAD teachers are excited to focus this year on our new program theme: “Aspire to LEAD”.  After spending the first few weeks getting to know one other, we are all excited to dig into our first two study units starting next week. The first unit is a country study covering the geography, language, food, festivals, and other cultural aspects of countries such as Thailand and Indonesia. The second will be our first Leadership unit where students will get to create and run their own small town (complete with student elections!). Students will also be participating in cooking workshops, exercise and nutrition days, basketball workshops led by volunteers, and more! We’re so excited for another year of growth in our students as they explore their identity and learn how to become leaders within AALEAD and without.

By Tina Ngo, AALEAD Staff
Photos Courtesy of Tina Ngo & Melor Suhaimi, AALEAD Staff

Every year, the Volunteer Program staff search the DMV (DC/Maryland/Virginia) region far and wide for creative and committed volunteers to join our AALEAD family. We venture across many college campuses and organizational volunteer fairs in the hopes of meeting people who are passionate about youth and interested in making a change.

As summer ends and the new school year begins, the time has come for us to begin reaching out for volunteers once again. This September, we were thrilled to join Montgomery College-Takoma Park/Silver Spring, Montgomery College-Rockville, and the University of Maryland-College Park at their Volunteer Outreach Fairs. Volunteer fairs are a wonderful opportunity to meet a diverse group of people who are truly invested in giving back to their communities, and it is extremely inspiring and encouraging to hear their stories. Additionally, it is a great opportunity for folks who haven’t heard about AALEAD to learn more about our organization and programs as well as the amazing students that we serve.

This year, we were super happy to reunite with some of our recent AALEAD alumni who have just begun their college careers and visited our booths in-between classes. It was empowering to hear about the new experiences that our youth are having as well as catch up on the goings-on in their lives. Check out the photos throughout this post for a glimpse of what the volunteer fairs have looked like as well as photos of very excited staff with our AALEAD alumni!

As AALEAD programs begin to rev up in high gear for the upcoming school year, it is always refreshing to see familiar faces and meet new friends who are just as enthusiastic about AALEAD as we are. We look forward to the year ahead and invite you to be a part of our AALEAD family!

Special shout out to all of the brilliant students, staff, and faculty who coordinated the aforementioned events and stopped by our table. Also, a huge shout out to the awesome AALEAD alumni who visited and helped us reach out for more volunteers. We are all so proud of you and can’t wait to hear more about your college careers!

11 Days Until the First Day!

By Melor Suhaimi, AALEAD Staff
Photo Courtesy of AALEAD Staff

Summer has flown by and the 2013 – 2014 school year has begun.  That means that there are only 11 more days left until the first day of the start of AALEAD’s MD Middle School Program. Keo and I have anxiously and excitedly been planning for the 2013 – 2014 Middle School curriculum and we are both excited for what’s to come! In the past week, the start of AALEAD lunch informational sessions have been held at the five Middle Schools; Eastern, Argyle, Loiederman, Parkland, and Newport Mill. AALEAD lunch informational sessions provide an overview of AALEAD for new interested youth and to provide information for current AALEAD youth with upcoming plans for the school year.

Eastern Middle School’s lunch session was the first and was held this past Monday. The table was set with sandwiches and snacks as youth entered the room; old and new faces. Current AALEAD youth shared their AALEAD past experiences to new students to give a little sneak peek as to what AALEAD entails. Keo and I shared all the different things that AALEAD participants will do at our after-school program, as well. AALEADers will continue to learn about different Asian countries and cultures, cook dishes and try different foods and fruits from Asia, participate in community service projects to earn community service hours, attend field trips, and youth could be part of the very first AALEAD MD Middle School Youth Council. In the next week, Keo and I will continue to hold these lunch informational sessions for the rest of our Middle Schools and we’re very excited to meet new faces and reunite with our current youth!

As the week of September 30 rolls around, I am anxious to start the program and get our AALEAD Middle School youth excited for the school year. Like last year’s program and even recently with AALEAD’s Summer Fusion Program, I hope our youth start the program year with high energy, enthusiasm, and are overall excited to be part of the AALEAD family!

AALEAD’s Loiederman Middle School After-School Program from last year!

It’s sad to be saying goodbye to summer so soon, but I’m looking forward to everything AALEAD has coming up this fall!

AALEAD Staff had an extremely productive staff retreat earlier in August to prepare for the next year.  We focused on tightening our outcomes and measurements (more on that soon), planning activities for next year, and addressing the mental health needs of our students.

After Labor Day, AALEAD After-school resumes at Thomson and Bancroft Elementary Schools in DC.  Our Montgomery County After-school programs will resume at the end of September as after-school programming and late buses get going in our partner schools.

We have a new batch of Elementary School Teachers and Teaching Assistants joining us, as well as several returning staff!  And you have already been introduced to Keo Xiong, our new Middle School Program Coordinator.

We are also busy preparing for our upcoming Aspire to LEAD Lunch on Thursday, October 17!  This promises to be a very inspiring event.  I’m really looking forward to seeing our community grow stronger together.  See you there!


By Marierose, AALEAD MD Middle School Program
Photos Courtesy of AALEAD Staff

My name is Marierose. I’m 13 years old and I am going to be an 8th grader at Loiederman Middle School. I’ve been part of Asian American LEAD (AALEAD), since the start of middle school. When I first joined AALEAD in 6th grade, I didn’t really know what kind of group I was joining. My god sister was already in AALEAD, so this reassured me that I was about to join an awesome group. Soon after, my friends joined too. It was exciting! I still remember when I went to my first AALEAD event. I was a little nervous to see who was there. When I walked in, there were a lot of unfamiliar and new faces. But by the end of the event, I was relieved. I made friends with most of the people at the event. Over the years, I’ve been growing with AALEAD. AALEAD has made me feel comfortable and safe. For every program time, every meeting, every event, AALEAD has made me who I am today. The people that I’ve made friends in this program have helped me through a lot in my life. I have no regrets joining AALEAD. AALEAD is my second family.

This Summer, I decided to join AALEAD’s Summer Fusion Program. There are so many reasons why I wanted to join AALEAD’s Summer Fusion Program. One reason is that there were very interesting activities and workshops at Summer Fusion. For example, we had a dance workshop! It was really exciting and fun! Everyone learned different types of dance like Ballroom, Step and Hip Hop. AALEAD High School students were part of the Summer Fusion program as well. Some of the High School students were known as “workshop leaders” who led workshops for the group. A memorable workshop was when two of the High School workshop leaders created a game called “Pac-Man.” There was a twist! To move to the next station, groups had to sing a tune together assigned by the workshop leader. It was fun to see people singing and even practice our singing! My favorite part of Summer Fusion was when our Coordinators and High School workshop leaders led stretches to help us loosen our muscles. This even encouraged me to stretch at home!

One thing I learned at Summer Fusion is that you shouldn’t judge someone based on how they look. It’s like the saying, “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” I learned this through my experience at Summer Fusion. One of my closest friends now, was one of the students I first looked at with confusion; and I even thought she was strange. But even in the short five weeks of the Summer Fusion Program, I got to know this person and she’s one of my closest friends now. The Summer Fusion Program has changed me so much and it only lasted for five weeks. Now, I feel more confident in showing and accepting my talents (I sing and play the ukulele). This confidence has made me realize that I could really become a musician in the future and make it my career. I am more open and I don’t feel uncomfortable around a group of strangers. AALEAD and Summer Fusion has made a big impact on my life!

“Till I See You Again”

“I used to tell people that I found this job by accident… but I don’t think it was an accident. I was meant to be here!”

In the summer of 2009, I moved to DC without a job or clue of what I would do next. While I was attending a fellowship through the Center for Progressive Leadership, I decided to volunteer in the DC community. I happened across the AALEAD website and thought that I could help out while searching for a job. The day before my volunteer interview, I got a call asking if I wanted to apply for the SSP coordinator position. I immediately told them “yes!” The next four years flew by in a heartbeat.

Looking back, I wasn’t sure what to expect from this experience. All I knew is that I loved community work and I loved working with youth. In many ways this was my dream job and I never believed that I could make a living doing this kind of work. My first day was a blur. I just remember Kendra Lee (past programs director) bringing me down to a room full of students and asking if I would be okay. So there I was, standing in front of 20+ students and it had begun.

There were so many things that happened in the first year. There were many challenges and many heart-wrenching moments.  Yet, all I can remember now are the good times. I remember playing basketball before programs at the courts on 14th Street. I remember staying till 10 pm to work on lessons for the Secondary School Program. I remember the impromptu life conversations and the infinite number of inside jokes.

These past four years have left me with life altering experiences and many people who I humbly call family. It is not every day that you find a job that feels more like home.  To the staff that I have had the honor of working with over the years, you all have taught me so much.  I am a better person because of all of you.

To all the students who have allowed me to be part of their amazing lives, I’ll miss you and thank you for always being there for me.

“One day, we won’t be able to sit here like this.

In this room, we dared to master the alchemy of tomorrow.

We, the misfiring jukeboxes rewriting

history to the tune of our favorite songs.

We, the renegade anthems hurling caution into the wind.

We chase stardust and promises.

We are the last ones to grow up and we’ve never stopped dreaming.”

Till I see you again,

Alex Cena

By Melor Suhaimi, AALEAD Staff
Photos Courtesy of Sharon Choi, AALEAD Staff

As August is coming to an end and school is starting up again soon, it is hard not to remember all the memories made during the five weeks of the MD Summer Fusion Program.  July 25 was the last day of the Summer Fusion Program and the feeling of a bittersweet goodbye filled the room.  AALEADers were anxious to enjoy the rest of their summer, yet held on to the many memories we made in a short period of time.

During the five weeks, high school workshop leaders, guest workshop leaders, and AALEAD staff took the lead in providing our middle and high school youth with a variety of workshops.  AALEADers learned to see the art of making people laugh in an improvisation workshop, to learning the moves of stomping and stepping in a dance workshop, and the art of making snacks using healthy foods.  Even though five weeks came and went, AALEADers definitely had the opportunity to experience the fusion of music, dance, and the arts during our Summer Fusion Program.

Following last summer’s MD Summer Me Program’s tradition, AALEAD youth planned a potluck for the last day to showcase all the projects they made and to share final individual and group performances.  AALEAD staff, family, and friends were invited to see the projects, performances, and to enjoy the food (there was a lot of food!).  And of course, Francine and I expressed how much our youth continue to inspire us everyday! It was definitely a bittersweet goodbye, but we are looking forward for our After School Programs (and next summer!)

Here are a few pictures from AALEAD’s  MD Summer Fusion Program’s last day:

Lastly, check out the video that was shown to our youth on the last day of Summer Fusion Program!

**Please check back for more updates and details to come!**
Last Updated: October 14, 2013

Hello, Friends! Asian American LEAD (AALEAD) is excited to announce our FREE fundraising lunch, Aspire to LEAD, on October 17, 2013, from 12 to 1 p.m., in the Silver Spring Civic Building in Downtown Silver Spring! Please join us for an inspiring and empowering hour-long program over lunch. Please RSVP to Please plan to arrive early as we will start on time! We look forward to seeing you!

RSVP/Contact: Sharon Choi
(202) 884-0322 x 104

Directions | For travel instructions and a map of the Civic Building, please click HERE.
GPS address: 8525 Fenton Street, Silver Spring, MD, 20910.

Parking | Please park in the Town Square Garage, which is located directly across the building. It is a Pay On Foot garage, so please bring your ticket with you. Rate: $0.75 per hour.