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,

By Melor Suhaimi, AALEAD Staff
Photos Courtesy of AALEAD Staff

On Wednesday, November 6th in downtown Silver Spring at the Civic Building, 5 Middle School AALEADers attended Montgomery County’s Collaboration Council’s Annual Community Celebration.  For the past two years, the Collaboration Council has graciously asked AALEADers from Loiederman and Argyle Middle Schools to help with serving hors d’oeuvres and to mingle with the attendees.  In return, our youth received community service hours.  Our youth did such a great job!  The 5 students were Fucheng and Jethro from Loiederman Middle School and Sylvia, Calvin, and Vicky from Argyle Middle School. The students had the opportunity to meet community leaders, while learning about and serving delicious snacks to guests.

During the event, Asian American LEAD was even recognized by the Collaboration Council for our youth’s service. AALEAD is thankful to have such a wonderful partnership with Montgomery County’s Collaboration Council! Looking forward to doing this again next year!

First MD AALEAD Halloween Night a Success!

By Keo Xiong, AALEAD Staff
Photos courtesy of AALEAD Staff

A couple of witches, a cat, Tinkerbell, a football player, Mordecai, Superman, a baby, and twenty MD AALEAD youth joined MD AALEAD for its first spooktacular Halloween night last Thursday. Youth from all seven of our middle and high schools, and even former students now in college, came out to celebrate Halloween, went trick-or-treating, and watched a Halloween family classic, Hocus Pocus.

Students gathered at the MD AALEAD office to finish putting on costumes, paint faces, and meet their peers from other schools. Then, it was time for the fun part: students went trick-or-treating around the neighborhood for candy. For one student who came to the U.S. from China in 2010, this was her very first time participating in the American Halloween tradition of trick-or-treating. For others, like our high school students, this was their first time trick-or-treating since they were in elementary school.

Within only one hour of trick-or-treating, every student returned to the AALEAD office with a heavy bag full of candy, evidence of their high and abundant energy running from house to house. Students then ate dinner (and owl cupcakes!) and settled down to watch a Halloween movie. Many laughs, and even a loud scream, could be heard throughout the room as students watched Hocus Pocus together.

No matter where students come from or how old (or young) they are, everyone had a great time getting to know one another, sharing treats, and spending time with their AALEAD family. This night was a great success and a fun first for an event that will now be held annually.

By Janet, AALEAD DC Student
Photos Courtesy of Janet, AALEAD DC Student

Walking to the Lisner Auditorium from the Metro, anxiously looking around at people and guessing who might potentially be going to the Showcase, and running around while asking questions to my supervisor were all things that I was doing on September 28, 2013. It was Kollaboration DC’s 4th Annual Showcase, and I did not want to miss out.

The previous year I, along with my peers, volunteered for the showcase with AALEAD DC’s Secondary School Program; this year, it was up to us to organize it, and we wanted to make it happen due to so many students’ desires to volunteer for the show. Using the lessons we learned from our experiences volunteering with AALEAD, we e-mailed Kollaboration DC’s Volunteer Supervisor and set up arrangements to have a small group of students from both the Maryland High School Program and the DC High School Program participate.

Organizing this opportunity and the students was definitely difficult, especially since the school year had just begun and school work began to pile on. However, we still managed to organize a group of 8 students to attend the event. Once we arrived at the Auditorium, we were given our assigned jobs, taught the process of ushering guests in, and familiarized ourselves with the venue. 7:00 PM (opening time) finally came, and that’s when all of the people came bustling in. The showcase was amazing; there were so many talented artists within five feet of us! There was definitely a rush due to the adrenaline, and we felt happy and blessed to have been a part of this year’s show. We also got to snag photos with some local celebrities such as SNRG (Some Never Really Get), GOWE (Gifted on the West East), Blush, and even AALEAD’s very own Sharon Choi!

October has been a wonderful month for all of us at AALEAD and it has gone by so quickly!

For the first time, we launched our Aspire to LEAD Giving Society with individual donors committed to AALEAD for the next five years.  Thank you to all the members of our new Giving Society for your dedication to our youth and this organization.  Thank you to all of our donors for your generosity and Aspiring to LEAD with AALEAD!

Aspire to LEAD is AALEAD’s theme for programming this year.  In addition to celebrating this theme at our lunch, it has been so great to see our youth begin to explore this theme.  Check out some of our blog posts to see how our youth are learning to Aspire to LEAD!

I look forward to continuing to see so many of you out at events in our community.

Happy Fall!


By Melor Suhaimi, AALEAD Staff
Photos Courtesy of Melor Suhaimi and Keo Xiong, AALEAD Staff

On a bright, windy Saturday morning, AALEAD MD Middle School students gathered at the Wheaton Recreation Center to participate in Montgomery County’s Service Day.  County- wide, volunteers gathered to work on service projects for the 27th Annual Community Service Day.  MD Middle School AALEADers made Halloween goodie bags and cards.  AALEAD youth drew goblins, ghosts, pumpkins, spiders, and more on the bags and wrote festive sayings on the cards like, “Have a Spooktacular Halloween!”

AALEAD youth made around 120 goodie bags!  These bags will be delivered to patients at the Children’s National Medical Center on Halloween night.  AALEAD partnered with a local volunteer, Mr. Elliot Rosen, who provided most of the goodie bag supplies for our youth!  Thank you, Mr. Rosen!  Mr. Rosen and his group of volunteers will deliver the bags on Halloween night and will be posting pictures of the delivery on their Facebook page – so stay tuned!

With this service project being the very first community service event of the school year for our Middle School AALEADers, it ended up being a great success and our youth were happy to make the bags for patients at the Medical Center!  Happy Halloween, everyone!

MD Middle School Program Up and Running

By Keo Xiong, AALEAD Staff
Photos courtesy of AALEAD Staff

From the start of all MD After School Programs on October 1 to our Annual Kick Off BBQ for students and families last Friday, this month is proving to be a great one so far. This year, we welcomed many old faces back to the program, and introduced even more new students, many of them sixth graders, to the AALEAD After School Program and family. Indeed, “family” is a great word to describe AALEAD because it has also been wonderful meeting new students who are younger siblings, relatives, or close friends of former students. Students who introduce and encourage their peers to check out AALEAD are already showing and using their leadership skills, and they embody our theme of the year, Aspire to LEAD.

During the first couple weeks of programs, students were introduced to the theme, “Aspire to LEAD,” and discussed what leadership means to them. One student said a leader is someone who “inspires people, pushes them to achieve great things.” Besides leading from the front, another student said that a leader is someone who “stays behind everybody and makes sure everybody is on the right task.” After sharing their thoughts and ideas with peers about leadership, students at Argyle and Parkland Middle Schools worked in small groups to design Aspire to LEAD posters. Here are some of their work:

In addition to numerous activities surrounding leadership, last week, we introduced the AALEAD Middle School Youth Council to our students. The AALEAD Middle School Youth Council provides students opportunities to directly affect their program through bi-monthly meetings to discuss and help plan events and activities, and is made up of four representatives from each middle school, for a total of 20 students. Students had the chance to nominate themselves or peers for positions on the youth council. These candidates then campaigned for their position by creating lawn signs, giving speeches, and participating in Q & A sessions. Their peers then elected their youth council representatives by ballot. In the next couple of weeks, all youth council representatives will have been elected. We look forward to working closely with these youth leaders to continue improving our programs and creating an environment where youth will feel empowered to take ownership of AALEAD to make this program fit their needs.

We’ve had a great start to the MD Middle School Program and are already seeing leadership skills and high potential in every student to aspire to lead. With the numerous upcoming events, including a Montgomery County Service Day project and Halloween movie night, and interactive lesson plans ahead, let’s keep the positive and high energy going!

Asian American LEAD (AALEAD) hosted 150 guests at our Aspire to LEAD lunch fundraiser last Thursday, October 17, 2013, from 12 to 1 p.m. at the Silver Spring Civic Building in Downtown Silver Spring, for an empowering hour of community and raising awareness on our mission and work.

Guests heard powerful testimonies over lunch from our Board Member Ban Tran, Executive Director Surjeet Ahluwalia, and Staff Member Melor Suhaimi. We also had a special video performance recorded by one of our former youth, especially for our lunch (see video at the end of the post!). In addition, guests heard from our youth who are being impacted every day through our After School, Mentoring, and Summer Programs. *If you were unable to be with us last week, please see our video below!

We are extremely proud to announce that AALEAD has officially launched the AALEAD Aspire to LEAD Giving Society this year with the help of 4 amazing Leadership Giving Society Members. We are honored to share that in just one week, we have a total of 17 AALEAD Aspire to LEAD Giving Society Members who have committed at least $1,000 per year to our organization for the next five years. In total, with our Aspire to LEAD event, we have raised more than $175,000 in cash and pledges for the next five years!

AALEAD would like to thank our AALEAD Aspire to LEAD Giving Society Members and ALL our guests and friends from the community who generously gave in support of AALEAD and our youth. We witnessed the power of community and how much can be done when the community comes together.

We are deeply moved by the community’s support and commitment to serving AALEAD’s youth and the community at large. Although AALEAD’s Aspire to LEAD event has passed, we  continue to challenge all who are a part of this community, to truly “Aspire to LEAD” in their own way and step up as LEADers, whether it is through spreading the word about AALEAD’s mission and work, getting involved with our youth, or contributing monetarily…

“Aspire to LEAD” with AALEAD!

For more on how to get involved or give to AALEAD, please contact Sharon Choi at

AALEAD Alumni Performance Video

AALEAD’s Annual Kick Off BBQ!

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

The start of every school year is always exciting!  It is especially exciting for the start of our AALEAD After School Programs that kicked off in September (DC Elementary School) and October (MD Middle and High School).  On Friday, October 18, AALEAD celebrated the new year with our Annual Kick Off BBQ! It was a beautiful fall day for youth to eat hot dogs and burgers, participate in a team-building activity, and to hang out on a Friday afternoon.

Around 40 to 50 youth gathered at Wheaton Forest Park. AALEAD youth received brief introductions from AALEAD Staff and were then asked to participate in a relay race. Separated into 3 teams with 3 AALEAD Staff Members as referees; the relay race started with all 3 teams going head-to-head for the win. Even though one of the teams did win the race; at the end of the day, all of the AALEADers were winners! New and old AALEADers had the opportunity to mingle and meet each other from all the different Middle and High Schools that they attend in MD and DC. It was refreshing to see new faces and it’s always great to see our youth who have been part of AALEAD for years. The Park was definitely filled with high energy and excitement! Special thanks to our AALEAD Parents who came out on Friday, as well! Here are pictures from Friday’s Kick-Off BBQ:

Hello, world! My name is Antwoine Johnson,the third MD Middle School Program Coordinator serving Newport Mill Middle School, hailing from the humble metropolitan area that we call home at AALEAD. I hope my introduction finds you all well, tackling the Monday with great energy and vigor. So, let me tell you a bit about myself…

I was born in Fort Washington, MD (not too far from here), and raised by the two most awesome women the world has known, my mother and grandmother. I have lived pretty much all over the metropolitan area until my family finally settled in Ellicott City, MD (HOCO REPRESENT!). I went to Marriott’s Ridge High School and was involved in drama, as such, I know how to sing at an average level and act a bit. I graduated from the University of Maryland, College Park. While there, I was involved with my church’s bible studies (Bethel Korean Presbyterian Church) and also my campus ministry (Korean Campus Ministry). These two avenues introduced me to the community of Asian Americans who I would otherwise be ignorant to. My passion for this community grew as with the number of Asian Americans who became my friends. One of my friends introduced me to Asian American LEAD and the rest is history.

As far as things I like or enjoy, I like being outside and going hiking. I also like going to the gym and lifting (although between me and you, the cardio is a bit lacking!). I enjoy reading the Bible, manga and novels, hanging out and cooking (especially for other people). If you are curious, I make the best cornbread that I know (and there are people that will attest to this)! I also enjoy cartoons, Anime, video games. Some of my favorite shows include The Looney Tunes Show, Young Justice, Adventure Time, and Teen Titans GO! My favorite video games include Kingdom Hearts as well as other epic games. The allure for me is witty humor and also, the ability to tell a good story. I think the greatest way to convey a message is through a relate-able story  and that is an art.

My first week at AALEAD was amazing. I have never felt so welcomed to a place before. I am blessed to have such a community in my working environment. Passionate, loving, accepting. I can tell that I am really going to love it here and cannot wait to start my program tomorrow! I do not think words can accurately describe how excited and honored I am to be working for this organization. I hope that I can contribute to make the AALEAD family an even greater one. STAY TOUGH AALEADers!!!