Visiting Thomson ES AALEADers!

By David Oh, AALEAD Development & Communications Intern
Photos Courtesy of David Oh, AALEAD Development & Communications Intern

Mondays can sometimes be the most challenging day for youth.  They can be really out of it!  But this was not the case for the AALEAD students at Thomson Elementary School. Youth at Thomson had great energy.  Students in the 3rd and 4th grade class were able to get to know each other more by participating in a get- to-know activity.  Students were given a list and had to find a classmate who had completed something on the list and get their signatures.  The room was filled with laughter as the students raced to be the first one to complete the list.

Meanwhile, students in the 1st and 2nd grade classroom were learning  to make predictions while being creative. Students gathered around as Ms. Nadiah told them a story.

She never finished the story for her students.  Instead, she asked her students to make 5 predictions about what could have happened at the end of the story.  The students worked diligently to come up with the best predictions for the end of the story.

Please keep checking out our blog for more fun-filled updates!

National Mentoring Month Mixer a Success!

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

Last Thursday evening, Asian American LEAD (AALEAD) wrapped up an exciting National Mentoring Month with a DC-wide Mentor Appreciation Month Celebration at Policy Restaurant & Lounge. AALEAD celebrated the achievements and accomplishments of our Mentors along with four other  partner organizations: Capital Partners for Education (CPE), the DC College Success Foundation (DC-CSF), For Love of Children (FLOC-DC), and Mentors, Inc.

AALEAD had nearly 30 Mentors attend the event. We are so proud of our Mentors who commit to positively impacting AALEAD youth and making a difference in our community. Our Mentors come from all different backgrounds and truly reflect the diversity of AALEAD!

We were also honored to announce our Mentoring Hero of the Year, Cicie, in addition to recognizing the amazing accomplishments of all AALEAD Mentors. The award was announced and presented by our Executive Director Surjeet Ahluwalia and Mentoring & Volunteer Program Coordinator Tina Ngo.

We thank all our AALEAD Mentors for choosing to be a part of our family and the lives of our youth. Your commitment is making a huge difference! Check out some photos from the event below!

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By Melor Suhaimi, AALEAD Staff
Photos Courtesy of AALEAD Staff

In the past two weeks MD Middle School youth learned about South Korean culture and cuisine!  Conversations about Korean Pop music (K-pop), origins of the Korean language, and different types of Korean dishes were a few of the main topics.  With Korean dishes being one of the topics, our youth were eager to cook at least one of the dishes!

Bibimbap is a popular Korean dish that usually contain these main ingredients: rice, vegetables, gochujang (red pepper paste), beef, and an egg.  After the ingredients are cooked or steamed, these tasty ingredients are placed in a hot steaming bowl ready to be served!  MD MS Youth had the opportunity to assemble their own bibimbap dish using the ingredients that their Program Coordinator brought in.  Youth also compared similar dishes to the bibimbap that they have tried before.  Dishes like Vietnamese pho and Spanish paella were mentioned because of the fact that a variety of ingredients make up one large dish.

Our youth had mixed reviews about the bibimbap dish (a few said the dish was too spicy, while others wanted more ingredients in their bowl,) but all were thankful to try Korean cuisine!  MD Middle School youth will continue to learn about different Asian countries until the end of the school year to explore the different cultures, sights, and food that Asia has to offer.  So stay tuned for future posts to see what our MD Middle School youth is up to for the rest of the school year!

Mentoring Matters: Kamya’s Thoughts

By Kamya Khanna, Current AALEAD Mentor
Photos Courtesy of Kamya Khanna, Current AALEAD Mentor

As the end of National Mentoring Month draws near, we wanted to share Kamya’s story and the experience that she has had with AALEAD’s Mentoring Program. Thank you to all of our Mentors – we are extremely grateful for you and continue to be inspired by you and your dedication every single day. We hope you enjoy Kamya’s story, and Happy National Mentoring Month! -Tina Ngo, Mentoring & Volunteer Program Coordinator

As an undergraduate student, I spent a semester studying language and culture in Shanghai. Once I returned to the United States, I wanted to seek volunteering opportunities that would let me stay connected with Chinese culture. Since I also enjoy working with youth, I found my way to AALEAD, which provided a fantastic opportunity to get involved in DC’s Asian American community and hopefully make a positive contribution. So, in 2012, I decided to sign up as a Mentor.

Before meeting my Mentee for the first time, I was very nervous. Would it be difficult to make conversation with her? Would I have any useful guidance to share with a teenager? Would she trust me? Would I be able to set a good example for a young girl? When we finally met, I was pleasantly surprised to find that she was immediately talkative and excited to make a new connection. Thanks to her friendly demeanor, it did not take long for the two of us to find a comfortable rhythm with each other. Within a few weeks, I got to know all about her favorite school subjects, her friends from her hometown, her family, and her favorite kinds of music.

AALEAD has made it possible for us to continue making great memories together, such as participating in local community service projects and park clean-ups, ice-skating, and even visiting the White House to admire Christmas decorations. Separately, my Mentee and I have formed a solid bond during outings to DC’s art museums, visits to local outdoor markets, homework help sessions, and frequent Skype calls. We have attended cultural events where my Mentee has been able to teach me about Chinese New Year traditions, and in turn I have taken her to cultural functions that have taught her about my Indian heritage. Most importantly, we have reached a place where she is comfortable sharing with me any worries or dilemmas that she is confronting.

Over the past two years, I have aimed to guide my Mentee through her recent transition to high school, navigating the highs and lows of making new friends, being involved in the school community and balancing an ever-increasing workload. As she has opened up to me about her hopes and fears in this new chapter of her life, I am proud to have been able to be an effective listener who is present when she needs to vent frustrations, but also able to relate my own experiences in a way that might help her. I am especially proud of my Mentee and how she has remained a hard-working, well-liked, and fun-loving high schooler.

I have learned that being a good Mentor isn’t necessarily the same thing as having the perfect advice for any situation. Instead, what it really means to me is being available whenever my Mentee needs me. I do not need to have all of the answers to my Mentee’s problems, but I do need to have the willingness to spend time understanding her thoughts and problems so that I may guide her to resources that may be helpful. The mentoring experience has proved to be very rewarding. It has allowed me not only to gain confidence in my own skills as a leader in this way, but it has also allowed me to feel that I am indeed setting a positive example for a wonderful young girl, who will surely continue to blossom.

By David Oh, AALEAD Development & Communications Intern
Photo by David Oh, AALEAD Development & Communications Intern

Hey everyone!  My name is David Oh and I am AALEAD’s Development & Communications Intern for Spring 2014.  I am currently a Senior at the University of Maryland, College Park pursuing a degree in Public Health.  I am looking to expand my experience in the Public Health field and I thought AALEAD was a great opportunity to do so.  I thought it would be a great opportunity because they serve youth in the Asian American community and I really enjoy working with kids and the Asian American community.

Summer Youth Retreat. The top left is me.

In addition, here are some fun facts about myself.  First,  I have never traveled outside of the country since I was 5.  I would really like to visit South Korea within the next year or so to visit relatives and eat.  Also, I am a big sports person.  I really enjoy playing different sports such as basketball and football.  But one of the more interesting things is that I like to eat.  I like to travel to different places with my friends and try places that are known for a certain food specialty.

I am looking forward to this internship opportunity.  I hope that it would be a very fruitful experience in which I would be able to grow as well as contribute to AALEAD.

Happy 2014!  I hope the New Year has started off well for all of you.  And happy National Mentoring Month!

All of us at AALEAD enjoyed a rejuvenating holiday break and have returned excited and energized for the year ahead.  It’s been great to kick-off the New Year celebrating National Mentoring Month and our incredible mentors.  We have 60 adults who have been trained as mentors and who work one-on-one with one of our youth – having fun, guiding, and helping with school and college prep.  With spending at least 6 hours a month with their mentees, this amounts to well over 4,000 volunteer hours each year!  If you haven’t already, I strongly urge you to watch the beautiful video our Mentoring & Volunteer Coordinator, Tina, made with our youth thanking their mentors.  And if you are interested in becoming a mentor, please reach out to Tina!

As you may know, the next AALEAD community event coming up soon is our 15th Annual Dinner!  We are very proud to be approaching this milestone and will be celebrating AALEAD’s past, present, and future on March 26.  I hope you can join us!

By Francine Gorres, AALEAD Staff
Photo Courtesy of AALEAD Staff

During this time of the year students return back to school after a long break and prepare for one their most favorite things…..EXAMS.  If you can remember back to when you were in college or high school..we spent many hours studying and writing papers and it was a very stressful time of the year.  AALEAD was able to meet with High School students last week before exams and provided different lessons to help students as they prepared for exams.

Students learned about how yoga helps to stretch and energize the body in addition to helping the body relax through deep breathing exercises.  Students also learned about the benefits of making juice filled with vegetables and fruits. We made different smoothies out of spinach, apples, blueberries, strawberries, carrots, and other “brain food” ingredients! Students were amazed that it tasted delicious and how fast and easy it was to make with a blender or Nutribullet! It was a great first week back and we are looking forward to meeting with students next week!

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

One of the best things about the beginning of a brand new year is coming up with goals and resolutions for the future, but also remembering all of the achievements that were accomplished during the previous year and recognizing those who helped you along the way.

In honor of National Mentoring Month, AALEAD celebrates all of our amazing mentors and their commitment to and impact on our youth. To date, we currently have 55 pairs matched across both DC and Maryland. Though some of our pairs have just begun their journeys and others have been matched for a record amount of time, we are so grateful for the opportunity to witness and be a part of each mentee-mentor pair’s growth together. Our Mentors have all played a pivotal role in the personal and educational development of our youth, and we appreciate their kindness and willingness to give back to the AALEAD community with all of our hearts.

Today is Thank Your Mentor Day, and we couldn’t think of a better way to share our thanks than by letting you hear and see what some of our very special Mentees had to say about their awesome Mentors themselves. Check it out, and Happy National Mentoring Month!

*Though this video only highlights some of the students involved in AALEAD’s Mentoring Program, all of our Mentees are extremely thankful for their Mentors and all of the wonderful experiences that they have shared together.

Volunteer Voices: Vinh’s Story

By Vinh Tran, Current AALEAD Volunteer
Photos Courtesy of Tina Ngo & Micah Shearer, AALEAD Staff

The AALEAD Volunteer Program consists of committed and enthusiastic individuals who spend one to two days out of their week helping our after school programs staff manage classroom behavior, teaching lessons, and spending time with our youth. To kick off National Mentoring Month, we would like to recognize our amazing volunteers who not only dedicate their time to our students, but also serve as wonderful mentors and positive role models as well. To our fantastic volunteers, thank you so much for all that you do! We are grateful for you and continue to be inspired by your passion, creativity, and energy every day. Please enjoy Vinh’s story, and Happy National Mentoring Month! -Tina, Mentoring & Volunteer Program Coordinator

From my point of view, everything in the United States was new and extremely different from my country, Vietnam. I wanted to learn everything I could about Americans – not only for my own knowledge, but also, so that I could begin to have meaningful interactions in my new home – which is a feeling I think many of the AALEAD students I’ve worked with can relate to. Additionally, I am especially interested in education, and I love working with kids. Those are some of the reasons why I became a volunteer for AALEAD.

AALEADers are really smart, well-behaved, and eager to learn. I love the environment that AALEAD creates, which definitely encourages me to come back and volunteer every week. The most memorable experience I have had so far was the first time I had a chance to teach the students on my own. I was really excited to be able to step into a teacher’s shoes, even if it was only for one day. Though it was just a simple art lesson, it was wonderful teaching the students how to draw out their own ideas and make their own creations.

Through volunteering for AALEAD, I have gained some very important teaching skills, which are helpful for me because I want to become a teacher in the future. In particular, I learned how to be flexible with unpredictable situations, work in a team with the other teachers, and how to plan engaging lessons. I also had the opportunity to be a kid again by learning how to play with the students and help them develop their own unique abilities.

Working with everyone in AALEAD has been an amazing experience. The teachers are friendly and helpful, and I am thankful for the opportunity to volunteer with such a great organization.

By Melor Suhaimi, AALEAD Staff
Photos Courtesy of AALEAD Staff

If I had to choose two words to describe this past Saturday’s MD MS Youth Council meeting, it would be productivity and leadership. The meeting was the second of the school year and the first of 2014! There was a lot on the agenda and the MD MS Youth Council jumped right in: giving feedback, sharing new ideas, and taking ownership as leaders of AALEAD’s Middle School student body.

With Dr. Martin L. King, Jr. Day coming up next week, youth brainstormed ways of how AALEAD youth could give back to the community.  Many ideas were shared: youth can bring gently-used, good quality clothes for a clothing drive to bringing toiletries to organize and pack for homeless shelters, as we did two years ago for MLK Day.  However at the end of the discussion, the Youth Council decided that bringing non-perishable, canned goods would be the best idea for all Middle Schools to participate in.  All five Middle Schools will be asked by their Youth Council to bring canned goods from now until the first week of February.  The canned goods will then be organized and delivered to a local non-profit, Manna Food Center.

Two upcoming projects were also in the agenda and the Youth Council were very excited to give feedback for both.  A Youth Media project is in the works, in collaboration with AALEAD’s High School youth.  And even though Fiesta Asia (an annual Asian American festival in DC) takes place over the Summer, the Youth Council began the planning stages of the event.  The thinking tank continued on when each Youth Council Committee broke into their groups to brainstorm icebreakers to present to their schools from now until the end of February.  Youth demonstrated leadership qualities in this past Saturday’s meeting and by working together, the MD MS Youth Council accomplished many things!