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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 Francine Gorres, AALEAD Staff
Photos Courtesy AALEAD Staff

Good Afternoon!

As we start to close programs for 2013, I would like to share some topics we have been working on in our High School Program. But, before I begin…let’s take a trip back down memory lane:

Do you remember what it was like in high school? Maybe you had a small group of friends… played basketball or tennis…joined clubs and groups in high school…or maybe you went home to study and do homework.  In one way or another we were trying to figure out…Who am I? What am I good at? These questions were not very easy to answer as teenagers and are still not easy to answer even in adulthood as we pursue different career paths.

In our programs we try to help our youth answer some of these questions through identity workshops, where students are able to discuss and reflect on different aspects of their identity. Some students talked about their families and relationships, while others talked about hobbies and personality traits as important aspects of their identity. One student said, “I found [the workshops] interesting and deep. I like talking about things like this.”

Through these workshops we are able to share with one another our stories, and create a safe space to connect and support one another.

By Janet, AALEAD DC Student
Photos Courtesy of Janet, AALEAD DC Student

Walking to the Lisner Auditorium from the Metro, anxiously looking around at people and guessing who might potentially be going to the Showcase, and running around while asking questions to my supervisor were all things that I was doing on September 28, 2013. It was Kollaboration DC’s 4th Annual Showcase, and I did not want to miss out.

The previous year I, along with my peers, volunteered for the showcase with AALEAD DC’s Secondary School Program; this year, it was up to us to organize it, and we wanted to make it happen due to so many students’ desires to volunteer for the show. Using the lessons we learned from our experiences volunteering with AALEAD, we e-mailed Kollaboration DC’s Volunteer Supervisor and set up arrangements to have a small group of students from both the Maryland High School Program and the DC High School Program participate.

Organizing this opportunity and the students was definitely difficult, especially since the school year had just begun and school work began to pile on. However, we still managed to organize a group of 8 students to attend the event. Once we arrived at the Auditorium, we were given our assigned jobs, taught the process of ushering guests in, and familiarized ourselves with the venue. 7:00 PM (opening time) finally came, and that’s when all of the people came bustling in. The showcase was amazing; there were so many talented artists within five feet of us! There was definitely a rush due to the adrenaline, and we felt happy and blessed to have been a part of this year’s show. We also got to snag photos with some local celebrities such as SNRG (Some Never Really Get), GOWE (Gifted on the West East), Blush, and even AALEAD’s very own Sharon Choi!

Intern Introduction: Greetings from Romano!

By Romano Robles, AALEAD Intern
Photos by Romano Robles, AALEAD Intern

Greetings, my name is Romano, and I am the Fall 2013 MD Middle School Programs Intern! As mostly everyone knows, I’m also an AALEAD alumnus and attended MD High School Programs at Montgomery Blair High School. Currently, I’m attending Montgomery College, Rockville to pursue my Associate’s Degree in Computer Applications.

I first heard about AALEAD through a friend (who is also an AALEAD alumnus) when I was a freshman in high school and joined back in 2009. I thought it would be really helpful for me to join AALEAD because I recently immigrated to the United States in 2008 and everything was new for me. I also wanted to be more involved with the community. Aside from helping me become more active at school, AALEAD also offered me the opportunity to share my passion for dancing with the rest of my peers.  It is because of AALEAD that I’ve performed at several holiday parties and have also choreographed a dance for Fiesta Asia. Without AALEAD, I’d probably be dancing alone in my room and wouldn’t be where I am today.

I applied for the Fall 2013 AALEAD Programs Internship because I think it is a great opportunity to expand my skillset and learn more about youth work. I am expecting great outcomes and look forward to overcoming any obstacles that may come my way. Wish me luck!

A New Year with AALEAD High School!

AALEAD High School Program at Blair 2012-2013

By: Francine Gorres, AALEAD Staff
Photo Courtesy of AALEAD Staff

With programs a week away, one of the goals for the MD High School program is to recruit brand new students to be a part of the AALEAD family.

Over these past few weeks, I have met with new high school students to invite them to be a part of the program.  First impressions with high school youth can be awkward and intimidating, but also exciting and fun.  New youth always have something great to teach coordinators. For example, how valuable it is to listen and to be genuine. We spent time eating lunch together, learning more about each of our interests, and talking about family. Students were able to connect on similar values and culture and were interested in the AALEAD program. It was nice to have lunch with the youth and I’m hopeful that our connection will spark their interest to join our program!

Intern Introduction: Greetings from MinhAn!

By MinhAn Nguyen, AALEAD Intern
Photos by MinhAn Nguyen, AALEAD Intern

Hi everyone, my name is MinhAn, and I am super excited to be the new Fall 2013 Elementary School Program Intern! I was born in Saigon, Vietnam, and I migrated to the Silicon Valley in 2002 with my family. I am currently pursuing an International Relations degree with UC Davis. Upon graduation, I hope to dedicate my time to assist students from the United States and foreign countries in traveling and studying abroad.  I, myself, love to travel, and my top three destinations are Japan, Egypt, and the Czech Republic! Please let me know if you’re interested in visiting these places; I would love to share my experiences in these amazing countries with you.  However, as much as I love to travel, I have decided to settle in Washington D.C. for the next 3 months.

Despite the large population of Vietnamese people living in Silicon Valley, it was definitely not easy for me to integrate into the schools I attended and the community at first.  It was through the AmeriCorps Young Heroes program that I found  the support I needed to build up my self-esteem,  which helped me to be successful  (academically and socially) throughout  my years in middle school as well as high school. As a result, I want to be able to provide the same guidance and support to the Asian American elementary students living in the area during my time here in Washington D.C. I believe that by working together with AALEAD, I’ll be able to create a big impact on the lives of Asian American students, who will contribute great things to this constantly developing and globalizing world.

By Tina Ngo, AALEAD Staff
Photos Courtesy of Tina Ngo & Melor Suhaimi, AALEAD Staff

Every year, the Volunteer Program staff search the DMV (DC/Maryland/Virginia) region far and wide for creative and committed volunteers to join our AALEAD family. We venture across many college campuses and organizational volunteer fairs in the hopes of meeting people who are passionate about youth and interested in making a change.

As summer ends and the new school year begins, the time has come for us to begin reaching out for volunteers once again. This September, we were thrilled to join Montgomery College-Takoma Park/Silver Spring, Montgomery College-Rockville, and the University of Maryland-College Park at their Volunteer Outreach Fairs. Volunteer fairs are a wonderful opportunity to meet a diverse group of people who are truly invested in giving back to their communities, and it is extremely inspiring and encouraging to hear their stories. Additionally, it is a great opportunity for folks who haven’t heard about AALEAD to learn more about our organization and programs as well as the amazing students that we serve.

This year, we were super happy to reunite with some of our recent AALEAD alumni who have just begun their college careers and visited our booths in-between classes. It was empowering to hear about the new experiences that our youth are having as well as catch up on the goings-on in their lives. Check out the photos throughout this post for a glimpse of what the volunteer fairs have looked like as well as photos of very excited staff with our AALEAD alumni!

As AALEAD programs begin to rev up in high gear for the upcoming school year, it is always refreshing to see familiar faces and meet new friends who are just as enthusiastic about AALEAD as we are. We look forward to the year ahead and invite you to be a part of our AALEAD family!

Special shout out to all of the brilliant students, staff, and faculty who coordinated the aforementioned events and stopped by our table. Also, a huge shout out to the awesome AALEAD alumni who visited and helped us reach out for more volunteers. We are all so proud of you and can’t wait to hear more about your college careers!

By Yenling Yang, AALEAD Elementary Program Intern
Photos Courtesy of AALEAD Staff & Interns

The DC Summer Elementary School Program has officially ended. As I hurried around the cafeteria, clearing the last of the tables where we held our closing celebration, I was sad to know that I had to say goodbye to these amazing kids. Their excited, loud screams, their light-hearted giggles, and the knowledge that they spread through each classroom will sorely be missed. As I turn to exit the doors of Thomson Elementary for the last time, their laughs are still ringing in my ears. I am sad also that all the friendships and mentorships that were formed with staff members must take an indefinite break as I venture off into another city to continue my own education. I already miss our 19 staff members. I already miss our 115 kids. And I already miss our fabulous DC Elementary School Program manager, Ms. Micah.

Despite heartbreak or goodbyes, it has been a solid 5 weeks here at AALEAD’s DC Elementary School Summer Program! So much movement has flowed in and out of these halls over the past few weeks, as we headed out for field trips to museums, farms, and Six Flags; then, we scuttled back in for workshops on health or identity or service; afterwards, we whisked back out again for trips to the library to further expand our minds; and then we sprinted back in to meet our Tai Chi instructor and one of our favorite authors (Wendy Shang, author of The Great Wall of Lucy Wu)! Trampling over summer learning loss, no one missed a beat the entire summer!

We took a moment to celebrate this great program on Friday, August 2, with a variety of acts (plays, dancing, rapping) and displays (portfolios, painted flower pots, stories). The energy in the room, filled with students, staff, volunteers, and family members, was boundless. Kids could hardly keep still in between acts! There were cheers for fellow peers, laughter (when appropriate), and such an eagerness to see what the kids have been working on for the past 5 weeks!  As an intern, primarily placed in the AALEAD office at Thomson, to get to see the kids interacting with each other is a blessing. To see students put on funky shades and rap with their teacher or wear a mask to pretend to be a ballerina or do kicks off a wall to promote a health drink inspires me to work hard too! It’s obvious that these kids have so much potential and I can’t wait to see where it will take them!

As the doors for AALEAD’s DC Elementary School Summer Program closes for summer, the doors of AALEAD will be closing for me as well. The internship is officially over and as I pack my bags and prepare to leave the city, I will be thinking of the fond memories and lessons that I have made here at AALEAD. The biggest lesson that I have learned is that when working with kids, in order to have the greatest impact, one must build and maintain solid relationships with them over time. Face-to-face interaction is particularly necessary in learning how to socialize, work as a team, and sustain friendships among their peers. After all, communication is more than just words; it’s about body language and tone and attitude. Kids can tell if you’re not interested in them – even if you say you are. They can see that your body is not facing theirs or that your eyes are wandering elsewhere or that your voice is dreary. To let them know that you care, you have to feel it! Relationships are a two-way street. If you love them, they’ll love you back!

Well, that’s all from me for now. So long AALEAD! Hope to see you again in the future!

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

This past weekend, both our DC and MD mentors and mentees participated in a potluck and scavenger hunt at Meridian Hill Park. It was a gorgeous day filled with clear blue skies, and our mentoring pairs were ready to chow down on some delicious food and exercise their critical thinking skills during the hunt. From homemade yakisoba to crispy fried chicken and an array of fresh fruits, the dishes our mentoring pairs shared were super tasty and bursting with flavor. Not only did our meal span the colors of the rainbow, but the energy that the students displayed filled the park with a special kind of vibrancy as well.

After the pairs had the chance to fill their bellies and meet their fellow mentoring pairs, it was time to begin the scavenger hunt! DC AALEADers were paired with MD AALEADers in teams of four and then asked to take photos with statues, tell silly jokes, and demonstrate their creativity through a variety of tasks. As the students ran through the terraces of Meridian Hill Park and explored the historical area of the U Street Corridor with their mentors, lots of laughter, cheers, and encouragement could be heard throughout the course of the activity.

By participating in the scavenger hunt, our mentees not only learned about the importance of teamwork and how to rely on their team members’ strengths, but also, how to take the lead and share one’s knowledge with others. As the event came to an end, DC AALEADers reflected on how much they learned about their community and the neighborhood surrounding the AALEAD Community Center, while MD AALEADers enthusiastically expressed how fun it was to learn more about some of the landmarks and history in DC. These conversations highlight the significance of exposing our youth to new experiences, but also, remembering to have fun along the way as well.

Special shout out to all of the mentors and mentees who joined us at the potluck and scavenger hunt! We truly enjoyed seeing you all and are so happy that we were able to share such a beautiful day with such great company. Thanks so much, and can’t wait to see everyone again soon!

Farewell and Many Thanks

It has been a whirlwind of a summer interning for Asian American LEAD. When I was asked to craft an exit blog, I had to wrack my brain on what I wanted to convey. I have never really believed in goodbyes because when there’s a will, there’s a way. So, I figured I should start with the many thanks I have for the people I have worked with and for the youth that come every Monday – Thursday for the DC summer program.

Thank you to all the staff in the office for being so welcoming to me on my first day and for being so amazing. It has been a treat getting to know all of you in the time that I have been here. Special thanks to my supervisor Alex Cena for teaching me to go with the flow and to be flexible with my lesson plans. I know you will be a positive impact and a strong voice for the APIA community at the University of Florida. Good luck with your new job!

Thank you to all the youth in the DC summer program! It has been a pleasure to not only hold workshops for you guys and gals, but to get to know each one of you. All of you have so much talent, dreams, and ambition that I know each and every one of you will go far in whatever you decide to do. I hope you have a great rest of the summer and have an awesome school year.

And finally, to all my fellow AALEAD interns: I am so happy to have met all of you. Good luck on your studies and future endeavors!

Goodbye! Nope. No goodbyes. Instead…

See you later and thank you everyone for an incredible internship experience!

Sincerely,

Karen