AALEAD’s DC Office Moves!

Our AALEAD DC Office has officially moved!

We are now located just outside of Chinatown at 1029 Vermont Avenue, NW, Suite 810. AALEAD’s new DC office is now at a more permanent and traditional office space as all of our programs are offsite and in the schools and community. Through this major transition, we are committed as ever in our ongoing support of low-income and underserved Asian American youth in the District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia. None of our programming, services, and support to youth have been disrupted in any way.

We are excited to kick off the fall in our new space and look forward to having everyone visit soon! Until then, please make sure to stay connected with us by checking back on our blog. Questions? Please feel free to reach out to our Development & Communications Manager, Sharon Choi, at

August is when the DC region slows down.  But not totally at AALEAD!  Our staff do get to take a break between summer and school-year programs, but August is also always a busy time with transitions and organization-building activities.

This August, we continued to work on our next 3-year strategic plan for FY15 – FY17.  We will be sharing more on that in the fall once our plan is finalized.

We held our Annual Staff Retreat August 5-7.  We had a very productive retreat with all staff participating in the planning and activities of the retreat.  We had some fun teambuilding, reviewed our previous year, set program goals for next year, and brainstormed around strengthening AALEAD systems for curriculum and achieving our goals.

We wrapped up our retreat with visiting our new DC office!  In September, AALEAD will begin working out of our new office space just 2 blocks from our largest program site.  We are really looking forward to our new, more permanent space!

August is also a time for staff transitions before the school year begins.  Our wonderful MD Programs Manager, Francine Gorres, is moving to New York City after 4 years with AALEAD.  We are sad to see Francine go, but are excited about our new staff member, Ari Pak.  Ari joins us full-time as the MD High School Program Coordinator; she was previously one of our part-time Elementary School program teachers.  Melor Suhaimi has been promoted to the MD Programs Manager position.

We are also launching after-school programs at Annandale High School this September!  Shaima Ahmad, one of our part-time staff for our Elementary School Programs, has joined us full-time as our first ever VA High School Program Coordinator!

Thank you for your continued support, and I hope you enjoy these remaining days of summer!


By My Nguyen, DC Middle & High School Program Coordinator
Photo Courtesy of AALEAD Staff

For the past few months, I’ve been working with a group of middle and high school students, and during my time with them, I have been able to witness the growth that some of these students displayed through programs. I have been consistently impressed with all of our youth, and would like to mention three high school students who have emerged as leaders of our program and serve as role models to our middle school students. Not only are they leaders of our program, but they continuously display their commitments to our program and AALEAD by being actively involved with all events and activities. If you ask me, I would say that AALEAD is an important aspect of their lives and that they all love AALEAD. What better way to confirm my belief than to hear it from the student themselves?

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you Vy , Edward, Tommy, and their perspectives on AALEAD.

“My name is Vy, a rising sophomore who has been in AALEAD for about 3 and half years. As you know, AALEAD means Asian-American Leadership, Empowerment and Development for the Youth and Family, but there are many other definitions of what AALEAD is and what it means to us, AAleaders. I have learned that AALEAD is an organization that focuses on the Asian American in the fields of education and much more to help youth develop together which creates a special bond in becoming one big family. For me, AALEAD means another family that I can be extremely comfortable with, make new friends, experience new things (attending a conference held by President Obama, taking part in planning the API Annual Youth Summit, dancing on Pennsylvania Ave. for Fiesta Asia, just to name a few), and to be able give back to the community by volunteering with other non-profit organizations such as SOME (So Others Might Eat). Being in AALEAD has created many unforgettable memories such as the Annual Youth Summits, making great friends, and becoming a part of an amazing and huge family. AALEAD is something that I cherish a lot because it has been involved in my life for a couple of years which gave so many great opportunities and experiences, this is why AALEAD is very significant in my life.”

“My Name is Tommy, I will be a sophomore this coming school year, and I have been with AALEAD since Elementary School. AALEAD has helped me spend my time more efficiently by planning meetings and field trips for me to go to. Without AALEAD, I would be staying at home not doing anything, but watching TV. The field trips that I had fun going to were Homestead Farm, college visits, and the Air and Space Museum where we were able to view a demonstration about what it’s like to be an Astronaut in space. I am thankful to be a part of the AALEAD program and for providing me with great opportunities to broaden my horizons.”

“My name is Edward, I am a rising sophomore at Woodrow Wilson High School, and my journey with AALEAD has benefited me in many ways. I can say that I’ve learned a lot during the time I was with AAEAD. I’ve learned about many countries in Asia, which allowed me to know a whole new part of the world so well that I’ve never been there before. AALEAD has many exciting events and activities for me to participate in like field trips to museums and embassies to learn about its history and functions as well as non-educational field trips to places like six-flags and baseball games. AALEAD is a big part of my life and I feel very fortunate to be involved with this great organization.”

In closing this blog, I would like to take this opportunity to thank Vy, Edward, and Tommy for always willing to help as needed and for sharing your thoughts and feelings about AALEAD with the community!

By Sharon Choi, Development & Communications Manager
Photos courtesy of AALEAD Staff

Only having been with us since April 2014, AALEAD’s Parent Outreach Coordinator, Charles Kuo, has already made such an impact, not only on our parents, but on our youth, too. If you ever come by our offices or programs, you won’t ever miss Charles! He always has a smile on his face and brings amazing energy to AALEAD. Read on, to get to know him a bit better!

Q: Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
A:  I am Taiwanese American. My parents both emigrated from Taiwan. I grew up in a very Taiwanese home, speaking Taiwanese. For school, I went to the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. I studied Public Health. I was involved in a lot of different organizations, the Taiwanese Student Association, and an a cappella group–we were called the Mama’s Boys. After that, I did the non-typical thing. I was debating what to do and I went to Taiwan for a year. It was very different, but I was there as a missionary for a year in a small village, it was a fishing village called Dongshih. I served there for a year teaching English, teaching adults and kids, and now I’m here!

Q: Can you share about the work you are doing with AALEAD?
A: I’m the Parent Outreach Coordinator, but for the fall semester, I’ll also be a Site Coordinator for Thomson Elementary School. I love working with parents, and working in youth development, a lot of people forget about the parents. Especially with elementary school kids, middle school kids. Parents are really the link to get our kids engaged and involved so we want to make sure our parents know what we are doing. That we’re not an aftercare program but we have these targets, we have these goals in mind, that we want to enrich their youths’ lives.

I think we’re going to try to combine these two positions in a sense, especially because at Thomson, there’s a large Mandarin-speaking population, a lot of Chinese immigrants. The Site Coordinator is sort of the face to go to, so if parents have questions, they go to me and if teachers have questions, they can come to me as well. I’m also there to observe and see how the program is rolling and make sure we are meeting our outcomes and being goal-oriented. So it’s not just parents. It’s with the youth, with staff, and now, with our teachers as well. I kind of see everything! Like…a buffet!

Q: Your favorite memory with AALEAD?
A: We have had a few immigrants just come from China. They’re just fresh, very fresh. When you’re in that situation, you have no idea where to start. It’s been really empowering for them and also, I feel like for me, as well, to be a resource to them. Coming in, these families have no idea how the education system is, so I kind of tell them how it works and what kind of things they would need to register for school and the kinds of resources they do have that they can look into. In my time here, I’ve already registered two students at Thomson Elementary School–they had no idea what to do. I think being able to provide that for them was really good.

Q: Any others?
A: I think for me, every day when I see the youth. Well, especially the elementary school kids. I just get really excited seeing them grow. So it wouldn’t just be one moment, I think it’s a collective. Just seeing these kids grow and becoming responsible and becoming leaders has just been rewarding.

Q: What is a life motto or slogan that you like to live by, Charles?
A: I have a lot, but right now, it’s “be open to change.” That kind of just means, whatever is going on in your life, be open to doing something different. It’s always comfortable for us as people to always try do the same things or to do what we naturally instinctively want to do. But being open to change means in your life throughout, whether it be at home, with your friends, at work, trying something new and seeing how you can apply it to life.

I guess I found myself in transition. One you’re in transition, you’re kind of really lost. You don’t know what to do. Instead of falling back on things that I’ve done in the past, I wanted to be open to change. So this is more personal, but in my room. I have these little cloud cutouts and I write new slogans, inspirational quotes that I make myself. I’ll put them up and I’ll remind myself throughout the day. It’s very easy!

Q: You’re a singer, you love music. What song would you say represents you?
A: Well, I’ve been writing songs. So one song I wrote it called “Tell Me Something Good.” How it starts off is, you’re in a bad place, but you want others to tell you something good. But it progresses into the world, walking by and seeing people around you and being that person to tell them something good. I’m not finished with the song but that’s where I’m at.

Q: Your favorite line?
A: Would you tell me something good/I want to hear it/Would you tell me something good, I need it. It’s not just about yourself. Music sometimes is really personal, but it’s about reaching out.

Q: If you could rid the world of one thing, what would it be?
A: There’s a lot, but I think…hate? Hate. I guess that’s one. That’s something I don’t see that’s needed in the world. I think that’s something that’s prevalent in the world, but we don’t know need that. It’s a very strong word too. I tell my kids every time they say “I hate this,” “I hate doing this”…do you really mean that? That’s a really strong word. I’m not comfortable with hate.

Q: In closing, my favorite question. One word to describe AALEAD?
A: It’s necessary. Necessary, because I feel like being in the program, being around the people, being with the staff, I just feel like I need that in my life. Even though it’s only been a short time, it’s become something that means a lot to me. So…necessary.

Summer Kinect Reflection: Haiku Poems


Photos by AALEAD Staff

As youth slowly say good bye to summer vacation and prepare to go back to school to begin another year of learning and growth, we reflect back on their experiences in AALEAD’s Summer Kinect program in Montgomery County, MD. To close out the summer program, AALEADers wrote haiku poems about their time with friends, on field trips, and favorite memories. Below are some of these poems:

By Team Sprinklers

Small group we might be

Usually quiet we seem

Much cooler than you.

Mostly food it is,

NumbEr Nine broke down food.

Running we did next.

Knowing we tried hard.

It improved our team-building.

Nonetheless, our loss.

Every day we try

Connecting with each other,

Together we stand.

By Team Unicorn

Searching for new friends,

Unicorns UNITED us,

Made us who we are.

Many students found

Everything was hectic.

Running through the halls.

Kids roaming around.

In the trees and in the fields,

Names were known that day.

Each day something new.

Capable, lovely, children.

This was so much fun!

By Team Pho

Seems like they were chill,

Ultimately the best group.

Most of us love pho.

Making cool machines.

Exciting, competitive,

Really creative.

Kept us laughing hard,

Improv is very funny.

Not boring at all.

Energetic kids,

Caring and always joking.

Trustworthy people.

MD Summer Kinect Finale!

By Antwoine Johnson, AALEAD Staff
Photos Courtesy of AALEAD Staff & Interns

Two weeks ago, we had our final week of AALEAD’s MD Summer Kinect program. What a program we had this summer! This year was made extra special by the fact that AALEAD was able to serve 85 students! We were able to give our youth many opportunities to experience new things they otherwise may not have had a chance to.  Youth went to the Comedy Spot to learn improvisation skills, learned and discussed mental health issues, and climbed the outdoor walls at the University of Maryland, College Park.

The final week, however, was full of more laughs and more tears, as we all realized that things were winding down. We started with a review of the things that we learned over the summer. The students expressed and shared these things through song, dance, or poetry. AALEAD students showed a real mastery of expression themselves. We wrapped up Summer Kinect with a closing ceremony and a trip to Six Flags, which was the best way to end the program–on a high note!

Personally, I was awestruck and humbled by the amount our youth have grown since day one. I have seen our middle school youth come out of their shells and AALEAD high school youth stepped up to be real role models and leaders for their middle school counter parts. It leaves me with a sense of pride also, as more than once, they attributed it to what they learned during programs.

All in all, summer was a real eye-opener for a lot of people and a great way to get energized for the new year, where we expect to see even more growth within AALEAD.

AALEAD’s 3rd Annual Eid Celebration

By Melor Suhaimi, AALEAD Staff
Photos courtesy of AALEAD Staff & Youth

To me, Eid is a special time where I get to spend time with my family, eat a lot of food, and enjoy the holiday! And for the third time in AALEAD history, I was able to spend the Eid holiday with the AALEAD family last Friday night. Our Muslim youth collaborated every lunch period during AALEAD’s MD Summer Kinect program to brainstorm and plan ideas for our 3rd Annual Eid Celebration. AALEADers wanted to share the traditions that they experience with their families during the Muslim holiday, Eid. During Eid, there is a lot of eating (where Eid-al Fitr, the celebratory greeting, literally means Feast of Breaking the Fast) and continuing to eat while spending time with as many friends and families who also celebrate the holiday. Like many other cultural holidays (Lunar New year, Christmas, etc.) that other AALEADers celebrate, Eid is very similar. Overall, it is a time of festivities!

Our Muslim youth shared a presentation to our guests highlighting the importance of celebrating the holiday and also highlighted the month prior to Eid which requires a month of fasting.  Since MD’s Summer Kinect program was during this fasting month, our Muslim youth even thanked their peers for being supportive during the month where our Muslim youth didn’t drink water or eat any food from sunrise to sunset.  AALEADers learned a lot about the fasting month and Eid which gave them a better understanding of a different culture.  By the end of the celebration, youth and guests gathered to take pictures, continued to mingle, and laughs were shared all around.   The end of the night looked a lot like how I celebrate Eid with my own family and it’s great that I was able to share the same experience with my 2nd family, the AALEAD family.   Special thank you to Robin Riley, the Holiday Park Senior Center staff, Sadaf Halal Restaurant, and Tufail Ahmad in providing support for AALEAD’s 3rd annual Eid celebration!

Hi my name is Shaima Ahmad and I am the VA High School Program Coordinator. I began at AALEAD as a DC Elementary School Summer Program teacher. I was able to make such a strong connection with the kids that I found it hard to say goodbye, and it was hook, line and sinker for me.  I transitioned over to the role of Site Coordinator for our program at Thomson Elementary School, where I have continued working over the past year. What I love about working with AALEAD is the sense of family that has transpired through all levels of the organization. Although I will miss working with the elementary school youth, I am excited about the prospect of expanding the AALEAD family into Virginia.

My family is originally from Pakistan, and I was raised in Maryland. After graduating from high school, I had the opportunity to move to Beijing and complete my bachelors in Business Administration. The 4 years I spent there were a life changing experience for me and actually directly linked to why I connected with AALEAD.

I am currently living in Northern Virginia with my family and love to spend my free time reading, trying new cuisines, and volunteering in the community. I absolutely love to travel and will get on a plane to almost anywhere in the world!

The group at the wonderful Eid celebration from last Friday, organized by the amazing Eid Squad! Photo Credit: AALEAD Youth

Hi all! My name is Ari Pak and I excitedly join the AALEAD team as the new MD High School Program Coordinator. I first found AALEAD in my search for volunteer opportunities with APA youth. I began volunteering for the DC Elementary School Program at Thomson Elementary school as a Teaching Assistant with 3rd and 4th graders. I fell in love immediately; not only with the youth but with the program as a whole. Eventually, I transitioned into the lead teacher role for the school year and the DC Elementary School Summer Program. Every day, I am amazed by how continuously the youth in our programs inspire, support, and challenge each other to grow. One of my most recent favorite moments (there are so many favorites) was when one student won a highly coveted class prize and, without second thought, gave it to a peer. When another teacher asked why he had given away the prize of the summer, he said with a shrug and smile, “Well, he just really wanted it.” This generous leadership anchored in a sense of community is one of my favorite parts about AALEAD. I look forward to sharing moments like these with the youth that I will be working with in the coming months and can’t wait for what we all have to offer each other!

No introduction is complete without random tidbits so I will leave you with these:

-I have been longboarding for over 8 years and try to do it daily, even if it’s just to commute to work. Incorporating something I love into my every day routine centers me and helps me to stay productive.

-I can wiggle my ears. I might do it when you’re least expecting it, watch out.

-Some of my pastimes include: art/painting/drawing, cooking and exploring new foods, climbing trees, writing poetry, and coffee (making it, drinking it).

Photo Credit: My Nguyen

Goodbye for Now, AALEAD!

By Alex Neeley, DC Elementary School Program Intern
Photo Courtesy of AALEAD Staff

As the DC Elementary School Summer Program came to a close, I sat in a classroom recalling the past five weeks. Where had all the time gone? It seemed like it was just yesterday that I was sitting in a circle in the Tiger Class, imploring the students to take part in an icebreaker. Now as the program comes to an end, it amazes me how many fun experiences we have had together and how quickly I have built relationships with these students.

There are so many things I will miss about Asian American LEAD (AALEAD), from the early mornings in the cafeteria, watching the students color pictures and play Connect Four, to the laughter and fun throughout the day. I will miss the field trips to the farm, the pool, the Newseum and Six Flags. I will miss refereeing, and occasionally participating in their recess soccer games. I will miss watching them practice the Hakka and do yoga.

Most of all, I will miss the creativity of the students, not only in their productions of two AALEAD newspapers, but in their various methods for having fun as well as for solving problems.

While this blog post is written to say “goodbye” to AALEAD, it is most certainly not a “goodbye forever.” I look forward to coming back and seeing the continued growth of these exceptional young students, so instead, I’ll say goodbye for now, AALEAD. See you all sooner rather than later.

**Read additional Summer 2014 Interns’ reflections here: BhadonDavidHeein, and Laura!**