DAY 1 – Youth Talent Show.
On Friday, July 28th 2012 the beginning of making history began. I stood anxiously by the Metro station waiting for high school students to arrive and thought to myself….this will be a very interesting weekend, but for tonight let’s just all have fun and enjoy the talent show. When I arrived at Asbury Church in Washington D.C. I noticed each and every student engaged in something. Setting up chairs. Distributing food. Sound check. Practicing for their performances. Talking with their peers about the end of summer programs. It was inspiring and encouraging to see students take ownership of their event. I was excited to see what performances they had in store for us audience members.
Many of the students played the guitar, sang and danced. There were several duet (even a ukulele duet) performances. One student even had a rubics cube competition where he completed the rubics cube with one hand while his opponent tried to beat him with two hands! It was absolutely amazing! We even had our very own AALEAD staff members perform a song for the students that the audience really enjoyed. Being part of the audience as a coordinator/mentor for these students gave me a great sense of pride in their courage and confidence as young people and gave a small taste what was to follow in the next 24 hours.
DAY 2 – Our Youth Summit.
After several months of student planning and organizing, today was the day we would see the success of our hard work. Student volunteers arrived at 8:30am ready to get to work and were focused on each task. We were expecting over 80 people to come through our space throughout the day and we only had an hour to set up. With the help of over 15 student volunteers, mentors, staff, and other community volunteers we were able to complete set up with time to spare! Students had walked through their duties and had everything under control before any staff member could say Go! We had prepared our students well. The sea of volunteers in red-shirts working together, young and old, was awesome to see. We were ready for our first Youth Summit!
DOORS ARE OPEN!
As we opened the doors to the community, students began to sign in at the registration table and slowly seats were being filled. Guest speakers and workshop leaders also arrived ready to present important Asian American issues for our youth. Among the guest speakers were representatives from the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance (APALA), Sulu DC, Asian Pacific American Legal Resource Center (APALRC), National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum (NAPAWF), Culture Shock DC, DJ Asu Rock, and SNRG. We had a series of breakout sessions for the youth focusing on APA youth identities, student interest and hobbies, and community engagement.
With our closing remarks led by spoken word artist, George Yamazawa, students began to piece together the importance of the Youth Summit and of their work as student volunteers and leaders. Through his gift of spoken word, George touched upon many of the identity issues he faced growing up as an Asian American in the south. “They’ll try to call you all kinds of things like Bruce Lee, Jet Li, Jackie Chan, Krisiti Yamaguchi, and Hong Kong Fuey. Laugh along with their ignorance it will give you strength. Remind yourself that when you were a little boy even being deemed as powerful of a man as Bruce Lee still made you feel weak and helpless.” He brought to life the struggles of the Asian American identity and the importance of inner strength and acceptance in cultural heritage. Many of the students were moved by his words and his story served as one of the marking pieces of their very first D.C. Asian American Youth Summit.
After the closing ceremony we pulled out the tables, set up the stage, and cued the food line for our post-Youth Summit celebration dinner and performance showcase. Our delicious dinner was catered by Hollywood East Café from Wheaton, Maryland and our performance showcase was led by student volunteers. Among the many Kollaboration D.C. performers for the night were Alvin Tan, Matthew Almodiel, DJ Asu Rock, and SNRG. Students sang along with the artists, made posters, and even got down on the dance floor to music mixed by DJ Asu Rock. The students at AALEAD knew that their accomplishment of their very first Youth Summit was only the beginning of many more to come…but for that one night they all knew they had made history.
Reflecting back on this experience, no words or emotions can explain witnessing my youth grow into leaders before my very eyes. As a youth development worker I have struggled between telling and guiding, fearful of how life will form the minds and character of the youth. It was when they broke out into the world saying…Yes, you have prepared me. Yes, I have DONE it. Yes, I am ready to make a difference that I realized the power of teaching and self-discovery. To be proud of my students is an understatement. Inspired seems more like it.
AALEAD, CONGRATULATIONS ON YOUR FIRST-EVER D.C. ASIAN AMERICAN YOUTH SUMMIT!
Photo Credits: AALEAD Staff and Students, S. Mendoza, and Paola Flores
Special thanks to our sponsors that helped support our students in this historical endeavor:
National Association of Asian American Professionals (NAAAP)
HOLLYWOOD EAST CAFE
Last but not, least thank you to all of our community partners and supporters for volunteering to make this event happen:
Workshops and Speakers: NAPAWF, APALA, APALRC, Kollaboration D.C., SULU DC, Culture Shock D.C., G Yamazawa, AALEAD Digital Connectors
Volunteers: AALEAD Volunteers & Mentors, AALEAD Youth Council, AALEAD students
Performers: Alvin Tan, Matthew Almodiel, DJ Asu Rock, and SNRG
Special Shout-out to AALEAD Staff members and Alex Cena for the vision, inspiration, and passion to make this dream come true!
SEE ALL OF YOU NEXT YEAR!