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Youth Spotlight: An Accomplished Morning!

By Yuanlong, AALEAD DC Student
Photos Courtesy of Alex Jue, AALEAD Mentor & Tina Ngo, AALEAD Staff

Asian American LEAD (AALEAD) focuses on three different outcomes: Educational Empowerment, Identity Development, and Leadership. Every year, our youth work towards their leadership goals by participating in various community service activities across the greater DC Metro area. From creating cards for our veterans in the armed forces to volunteering at local homeless shelters, volunteering gives our youth the opportunity to learn about the importance of giving back and how they can make their communities a better place. This past weekend, four of our youth in the Mentoring Program volunteered with their mentors at SOME (So Others Might Eat) and the Central Union Mission. They had a great time volunteering together and wanted to share their experiences with the larger community. Check out a blog post by one of our students, Yuanlong, below! -Tina Ngo, Mentoring & Volunteer Program Coordinator

On Saturday, November 15, AALEAD students and their mentors came out to SOME to help out the homeless community. SOME, or So Others Might Eat, is a non-profit organization that helps give homeless people food to eat and a place to stay. We volunteered at SOME as a way to give back to the community and gain some experiences working in the kitchen (now I know how my parents felt washing dishes for me for half my life, and I’m grateful for them!).

During our stay at SOME, we had several different jobs. This included washing dishes and cups, clearing tables, and serving water and coffee. We all worked hard, and no matter which job we were assigned, we all still had fun doing it. This experience was a great way for some of the AALEAD family to create closer relationships with each other. Though it was hard waking up early in the morning to do some community service, we had an accomplished morning and all agreed that we would get together to do another community service event soon!

Special thanks to our friends at SOME (So Others Might Eat) and the Central Union Mission for giving our youth the opportunity to volunteer with them and learn more about the populations that they serve. We look forward to coming back and working with you again soon!

AALEADers Exploring College!

By: Shaima Ahmad, VA High School Program Coordinator
Photos Courtesy of Shaima Ahmad, AALEAD Staff

This past Saturday, 6 high school students from our Virginia and DC programs attended a college admissions workshop. The workshop was organized collaboratively by the Montgomery County Muslim Foundation and the USPAK Foundation. After a warm welcome, we had lunch and the opportunity to network with the large group of attendees. Shortly thereafter, the program began with introductions and welcomes followed by a panel discussion. The panel discussion was led by 4 college students attending various schools along the east coast: Harvard University, UMD – College Park, and UMD – Towson. The panel walked the students through how to prepare a college list, the Common App, early versus regular decision admission, SAT versus ACT, and much more. The panelists were able to talk from experience and boost the confidence of the high school attendees. The panel then opened the floor for questions from the audience, an opportunity of which several students took advantage.

The second presentation was led by the Chief Editor of Winning Essays, who gave an overview of the 5 ingredients to a superb college essay. We then had the opportunity to listen to some creative essays and discuss the pros and cons of each example presented. Our AALEADers felt that this was especially helpful as many of them are in the midst of writing and submitting their own college essays. The workshop concluded with a presentation on Financial Aid 101, by a representative of the financial aid office at Montgomery College. We learned the ins and outs of the different options college students have to fund their education and how to go about in accessing these resources. On the whole, our students felt that it was a very informative event and were super excited about the prospect of sharing all the knowledge they gained with their fellow AALEADers. We would like to extend a special thanks to the MCMF and the USPAK Foundation.

Thomson Tales: Thanking our Veterans

By Charles Kuo, DC Elementary School Program Site Coordinator & Parent Outreach Coordinator
Photos Courtesy of AALEAD Staff

AALEAD introduces “Thomson Tales”! In this blog series, you will be enlightened with the latest happenings at our DC Elementary School Program at Thomson Elementary School. Now take a deep breath… and prepare to be amazed!

Today, November 11, we celebrate and thank our veterans for their willingness to serve and sacrifice for our country. It is a day to honor their selflessness and courage. Last week, our AALEADers took the initiative in thanking our veterans by making personalized cards and posters. As part of their current unit, our Turtles (Grades K-1) class have started a BOB (Building Outside the Box) series. The series encompasses lessons on life skills, community service, and  STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and  Math) skills.

All of the cards started with the same salutation of “Dear Hero”. However, each of the students took time to write their own personal and encouraging messages. It was great to see them seriously thinking of how to express their gratitude in a creative way. More importantly, it was a great moment for the students to think outside of themselves and to practice giving back to their community.  The cards and  a joint group poster were all sent to Operation Gratitude which “annually sends 150,000+ care packages filled with snacks, entertainment, hygiene and hand-made items, plus personal letters of appreciation, to New Recruits, Veterans, First Responders, Wounded Warriors, Care Givers and to individually named U.S. Service Members deployed overseas.” (Resource: http://www.operationgratitude.com/about-us/about-operation-gratitude/).

Many of students said they felt “good” and “happy” after their acts of kindness and were looking forward to their next project! We are excited to provide them that future opportunity. Until then, we’ll definitely keep you updated with our other happenings at our DC Elementary School Program at Thomson Elementary School!

Thank you for reading this edition of “Thomson Tales”. Remember to check back on our blog weekly for program and staff updates. Follow us: Twitter and Instagram (@aalead). Like us on Facebook (Asian American LEAD)!

AALEADers Explore Georgetown University!

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

This past weekend, seven youth from Asian American LEAD’s (AALEAD) Mentoring Program, MD High School Program, and VA High School Program had the exciting opportunity to participate in a tour of Georgetown University (GU) with Georgetown University, School of Medicine’s Asian Pacific American Medical Student Association (GUSOM APAMSA). It was a beautiful day to explore the campus and learn more about what college life is like from current university students! Our awesome tour guides started us off with a round table discussion about our youth and what they are interested in studying. They then opened up the floor for our students to ask any questions they might have pertaining to college. AALEADers had so many great questions, ranging from Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) and Advanced Placement (AP) class preparation to how to select your own majors, and even college entrance requirements.

From there, the GUSOM APAMSA team divided our group in two for the first half of our tour around the School of Medicine. Fortunately for us, it was also homecoming weekend, so campus was buzzing with energy, and youth got to see all of the alumni returning to campus as well. We kicked off the tour with a visit to some of the school’s lectures halls and the Dahlgren Memorial Library, which is open 24/7. Youth also had the opportunity to check out maps of the United States where School of Medicine students are placed for their residencies, hallways dedicated to a variety of societies that each School of Medicine student is placed in, alumni photos, and the Caduceus Student Lounge. AALEADers were especially impressed by how hi-tech the lounge was and the emergency shower dispensers located around the school.

Our group then embarked on the second half of the tour and visited the undergraduate campus, where youth discovered a variety of dorms, libraries, and famous buildings. From the beautifully remodeled Healy Center to the McDonough School of Business and even the historical Healy Hall, students were enthralled by the wonderful mix of modern and traditional architecture around the university. We ended the tour at the University Bookstore, where AALEADers received a small taste of GU spirit and perused all of the school paraphernalia available there.

For many of our youth who participated in this tour, it was either their first time visiting GU and/or a college campus. Opportunities like college visits connect our youth to the local community and all of the great resources and universities that are available right here in the heart of their hometowns, the greater DC Metro area. Additionally, providing a safe space where youth can explore different options beyond secondary school allows them to build confidence in making the appropriate decisions for themselves.

A million thanks to the wonderful GUSOM APAMSA, who coordinated the tour, and to the amazing AALEADers and mentors who joined us for this event. We hope everyone enjoyed the lovely day we got to spend together as much as we did and can’t wait to see you all again next time!

AALEADers at Terrapinoy Day!

By Ari Pak, MD High School Program Coordinator
Photos By Filipino Cultural Association of the University of Maryland

This past Saturday, AALEADers participated in Terrapinoy Day, an annual exploration of identity, culture, and leadership for middle and high school students hosted by the University of Maryland’s Filipino Cultural Association (FCA). AALEAD was represented by four high school and three middle school youth who boldly engaged in workshops on cultural identity exploration, leadership skills, and deciding careers. The AALEADers stepped up to the challenging materials with excitement, creating a space of sharing, learning, and community between all students in attendance.

Youth participated in a leadership workshop where they identified and modeled the qualities of a good leader. After a generative conversation on positive leadership qualities, youth developed and performed skits exemplifying good leadership. While the responsibility of leadership can sometimes feel intimidating, participants were able to recontextualize every day experiences into leadership opportunities. Youth came away understanding that they could be the one person who is able to make the necessary difference in a situation. Even while groups created their skits, they were practicing the leadership skills they learned, supporting each other, making sure all voices were heard, and encouraging each other to step into the spotlight.

During the Culture and Identity workshop, youth navigated questions of personal identity with the support of their peers. Facilitators read statements about culture to which participants would answer by standing in the designated “strongly agree, “ “agree,” “disagree,” and “strongly disagree” areas of the room. At this point, youth made connections within their small discussion groups, sharing their experiences and reasons to statements like “I feel that people understand and value my culture.” This activity provided a venue to work through questions of individual identity within a supportive and safe environment. One AALEAD youth reflected, “I’ve never actually thought about those questions before, and they are really hard questions which I’m going to be thinking about more now.”

In the Deciding Careers workshop, youth explored the possibilities and dreams of their futures. “Draw a picture of your life twenty years from now,” one workshop facilitator instructed as they passed out paper to each youth. The room went silent as everyone fell deep into thought about their best life imaginable. Afterwards, each person shared their images depicting their goals, ambitions and passions. Many of the college-aged volunteers also shared their own experiences and imparted the understanding that failure, hard work, and commitment to a goal are a part of the process of achieving your dreams. AALEADers asked the college students questions about their experiences, connecting with their older counterparts and finding role models that overcame challenges similar to their own.  This was a memorable experience for our AALEADers to share their stories in a college setting with their own peers and college peers.


VA High School Programs Kick Off!

By Shaima Ahmad, VA High School Program Coordinator
Photos Courtesy of Shaima Ahmad, AALEAD Staff

The past few weeks have been super exciting for AALEAD’s VA High School program. After many a lunch recruitment session we officially began after school programming this week. The students at Annandale High have shown much interest and have been very keen to find out what AALEAD is all about. The lunch sessions gave the them the opportunity to get more insight about what the after school program entails. At this time students watched an introductory video and were able to ask questions about AALEAD. The kids enjoyed pizza for lunch and hanging out with their friends.

This week students worked on basically getting to know each other through fun ice breaker and team building activities. They broke up into groups and played a few highly competitive rounds of Tic Tac Toe Trivia, and gasped their way through an extremely creative round of 2 Truths and A Lie. The students also compiled a list of expectations and goals they hope to gain from AALEAD this year. This collaborative brainstorming process led to some great ideas. Some said they hoped AALEAD will help them be more prepared for the college process, while others simply want a place where they can have fun and hang out with friends all while gaining more exposure to their community.

The future looks bright for AALEAD at Annandale. As a team we hope to reach our goals and expectations for this year, all while having immense amounts of fun!

Intern Introduction: Greetings from Dong!

By Dong Zhou, DC Elementary School Program Intern
Photo Courtesy of Dong Zhou, DC Elementary School Program Intern

Hello everyone, my name is Dong Zhou, and I am Asian American LEAD’s (AALEAD) Fall 2014 DC Elementary School Program Intern! I am currently a college student studying Education at American University. This fall, I am a part of the Washington Mentorship Program, which gives me the chance to intern twice a week to explore my interests and get experiences outside of the classroom.

I have been in the United States for four years now. I went to high school in Vermont, New Hampshire, and Louisiana. I know it sounds a bit weird that I went to high school in three different states, so if you want to know the reason why, don’t be afraid to ask! I love playing ping pong (table tennis) and I also enjoy cross-country skiing. I played ping pong for seven years in China, and I also participated in cross-country skiing for two years when I was in high school. If you’re interested in these sports as well, let me know and maybe we can play together sometime!

I applied for this internship with AALEAD’s DC Elementary School Program because I am interested in education and understanding more about youth development. I also personally identify with many of these children and am eager to use my Mandarin language skills to learn more about this population in DC. I am excited to get to know all of the students soon!

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

This past Saturday, the Asian American LEAD (AALEAD) Mentoring Program held our first ever Bowling Social! Ten of our mentoring pairs gathered at Lucky Strike DC for an afternoon filled with fun, food, and friendship. After introductions were made, youth and mentors laced up their bowling shoes and put their game faces on; it was finally time to begin!

As pairs walked towards their respective lanes, they also engaged in some friendly, competitive banter. Youth enthusiastically praised their mentors’ skills to their peers, while mentors were eager and excited to share a favorite pastime with their mentees (some of whom have never been bowling before!). As mentors helped youth enter their names onto the screens, some pairs set goals for the scores that they wanted to achieve, while others excitedly caught up on each other’s lives.

After about an hour or so of bowling, mentoring pairs regained their energy by chowing down on yummy snacks such as chicken tenders, mac and cheese bites, chips and salsa, and pretzel sticks! Students were eager to begin bowling again after the break and even began to cheer on their fellow mentor-mentee pairs each time someone bowled a spare or a strike. As the Bowling Social came to an end, a strong sense of community could definitely be felt as pairs enjoyed one another’s company and continued to build on each other’s strengths and skills.

Events such as the Bowling Social serve as a great opportunity to not only team build, but also teach our youth that leadership can be comprised of a multitude of things. Sometimes being a leader means speaking in public or leading a larger group, but being a leader can also mean: trying something (like bowling) that you’ve never done before, being persistent and patient when you are learning something new (like bowling) for the first time, or even encouraging and cheering on your fellow peers.

We had an awesome time kicking off the new school year at Lucky Strike DC and look forward to what the rest of the year has in store for all of us. Thanks to all of the mentor-mentee pairs who participated — hope you had a blast and can’t wait to see all of you again soon!

By Ari Pak, MD High School Program Coordinator
Photos Courtesy of AALEAD Staff

AALEAD’s MD High School Program kicked off last week and the generative momentum for the coming year is already impressive. On our first day of programs at both Einstein and Blair High School, youth participated in a contest focusing on teamwork and leadership skills. They were tasked to work together to build a tall structure with a limited number of building materials.

After the energetic competition—filled with laughter, the sound of popping balloons, encouragement, and inventive techniques—youth had a chance to discuss what the activity meant to them. The insights drawn from this activity exemplified everyone’s eagerness to engage in building their own and each other’s leadership skills as well as creating a team-oriented atmosphere. One youth reflected that “It was all about the base. You have to build a strong foundation. When you have a solid base, you can build anything on top of that,” connecting our activity to building skill sets and accomplishing goals in life. Youth talked about setting a strong foundation for the new school year.

We wrapped up our exercise with “Shout Outs.” A “Shout Out” is when one person shares something they appreciate about another person in the group. This could be an idea that they thought was great, a strength or skill that was helpful, or anything to acknowledge and affirm another person in the room. The ease with which youth were able to relate to their peers and see their many strengths was inspiring. Holding in theme with our building activity, the “Shout Outs” created our base for building on those strengths moving forward in the year. After the activity was finished, the teams created so much more than a simple balloon tower: the room was filled with a sense of camaraderie, support, and excitement.

Youth also got a chance to generate goals for the year moving forward. Conversations varied from the reasons youth came to AALEAD, to the types of experiences and skills youth were looking forward to have together. I was warmly surprised by the mixed variety of responses. There were many new ideas for projects, events, and workshop topics. Some youth goals focused on acquiring specific skills such as leadership experience in leading groups and public speaking. Other goals focused on developing a sense of friendship and family within AALEAD. The varied responses about why youth came to AALEAD echo why I was drawn to AALEAD: we are learning and gaining new skills together while remaining centered in a sense of family and community.

Looking at all of the youth’s goals, I can confidently say that this year will be one to remember. Everyone is equipped with goals in mind as well as an open mind to try new things. There was one word that was shared in most reflections: Fun! We will be sure to have immeasurable amounts of fun with all of the events, projects and experiences we have to look forward to.

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!