By Ari Pak, MD High School Program Coordinator
Photo Courtesy of Ari Pak
What did you do this past weekend? When asked this question, the first thing that comes to my mind is the inspiring and energizing AALEAD MD High School Youth Council meeting that I attended. I know what you’re thinking; how could a meeting be inspiring and energizing? Aren’t meetings usually filled with monotonous lists and reports, pencil tapping, and clock-watching? Let me tell you, I left this meeting filled with excitement, gratitude, and pride in the work that the AALEADers had accomplished and would have loved to stay for longer if only to see them work their magic more.
I’ll give you a few snapshots of the day, in the hopes that you can share in some of the excitement and pride in the work that the young people on MD High School Youth Council accomplished.
11:12 a.m. Marierose, a freshman in the AALEAD MD High School program, is leading a teambuilding and leadership activity with the group. Everyone is gathered around in a group, working collaboratively to accomplish a shared task. The room is filled with laughter, suspense, and group bonding. It is already clear that everyone has come dedicated and ready to engage fully in every portion of the agenda.
11:45 a.m. Eljoy, a junior who has been with AALEAD since middle school, is the lead facilitator of the meeting, ensuring that all agenda points are addressed. He facilitates a discussion with the group around how to continue improving AALEAD programs. They elect to include a study hall and homework help portion time into program days to support each other’s academic success. They discuss the importance of all AALEADers holding a responsibility to attend AALEAD and contribute to the AALEAD community. The group comes away with an action plan to ensure the success of program engagement. Anyone in the room can feel the determination to create better, more engaging, and more sustainable programs emanating from each Youth Council member present.
12:38 p.m. Youth Council members share activities they have just finished planning and will facilitate over the remainder of the semester. Youth council member Ram shares his group’s plan to host an AALEAD Alumni College Panel in programs. Aisha, another member, shares about the mental health activities her group has planned to hold during the AP Exam weeks. These activities will support AALEADers in caring for their overall wellness during the stressful periods of testing. All members excitedly share feedback and suggestions for how to improve and execute all ideas. The end of the year curriculum is quickly becoming exactly what the AALEADers want for it to be: their own, engaging, meaningful, and dynamic.
1:14 p.m. The Youth Council has just finished creating drafts of the mission and vision statements for the Asian Pacific American Youth Summit. They recognize that a mission and vision statement will create an even more powerful, impactful, and sustainable APA Youth Summit, which they are all dedicated to creating. Their desire to empower their community, within and beyond AALEAD, rings true in their discussion around the APA Youth Summit, just as it does in their Youth Council vision board. Their motto sums it up: “LEAD by Youth for the Youth: One step at a time.”
1:25 p.m. The meeting is wrapping up and everyone goes around sharing one-word reflections from the meeting. “Productive,” “exciting,” “really-good!” “inspired” are a few of the feelings shared by individuals, and clearly held by all.
1:35 p.m. As I leave with Shobana, DC High School and Middle School Program Coordinator, we reflect on how efficient, productive, and positive the meeting was. Not only was the meeting run completely by the young people themselves, but they were also able to keep their energy and creativity high the entire time! How amazing is it to see what folks can do when we give them the space to expand?
This sort of work, the work that allows young people to step into generative and innovative leadership roles, is why AALEAD is so special to me and to so many other people. The MD High School Youth Council meeting serves as a snapshot of the ways in which AALEAD allows young people to grow into leadership roles in ways that matter to them. I am grateful and proud to have the opportunity to work with such inspiring and dedicated young people daily.