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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

An Extraordinary 5 Weeks with AALEAD

By Julie Kwong, AALEAD Elementary School Summer Program Teaching Assistant
Photos Courtesy of Julie Kwong

I didn’t know what to expect when I accepted the Teaching Assistant position for AALEAD’s Summer Elementary School Program. I heard so many great things from returning staff about the students during training week, but all of the tips that were given and all of the experiences that were shared ended up entering one ear, lingering for a bit, and then shooting out the other; in order to really understand what was being said, I had to be in the moment and a part of that experience. Now, almost five weeks later, I can say that I finally understand those moments and have even collected some stories and advice of my own to share.

If I could only share one thing that I have learned, it would be this: these kids are like presents: full of surprises. The first thing I noticed when I met these kids was their adorableness. They are the epitome of cuteness, excitement, and happiness all contained in a miniature-size hyper package. However, beneath this outer shell, they also have so many untapped talents, ideas, and dreams. Jonathan, in the beginning a very talkative kid, adjusted his behavior in recent weeks, thoughtfully completing assignments and paying attention in class without repeatedly being asked to do so. On the first day, he half-heartedly fulfilled the dream assignment, declaring that he will be a billionaire in the future with a great mansion and pricey car. Recently, in our mini class talent show, he patiently taught the class how to dribble a basketball through their legs. He told us that he enjoyed basketball because he was inspired by his brother to play and improve. Unlike his far-fetched (but, still possible!) dream in the first week, he admitted that to be a great basketball player, he would have to dedicate a lot of time and hard work. He’s up for the challenge, but also understands that not everyone can just join the NBA. This and countless other similar stories have surfaced among my students in the past month. Setting high expectations and truly believing in the potential of these kids are the only ways to avoid the side effects of these inevitable first impressions and presumptions.

I am without a doubt reluctant to wrap up my time with these students. I will miss each one of their smiling faces and unbounded mouths that endlessly spill brilliant thoughts and ideas. I will miss seeing their eager faces during reading time, watching their hands wave vigorously in the air to answer a question, and sharing laughs at their witty remarks. Most of all, I will miss discovering their priceless surprises and helping them see what I see in them: great potential and a bright future with endless possibilities.

By Yenling Yang, AALEAD Elementary Program Intern

AALEAD’s DC Elementary School Program is continuing its streak of fun and laughter and as we wrap up our fourth week, we have an announcement! Our 114 students have worked tirelessly for 5 workshop days and we are proud to release our first issue of our AALEAD Summer 2013 Newsletter!

Our 1st through 5th grade youth have channeled their creative talent these past weeks into drawings, paintings, poems, essays and much more! They have reflected on our field trips to the farm and to the museums and written about our different workshops and activities. Our students have also delved deeper and have written pieces about identity, goals, bullying, and friendship. With so many ideas bouncing around their heads, it’s no surprise that they cultivated a mountain of pieces that were suitable for submission to our newsletter.

Speaking of submissions, we could not be more proud of our rising sixth graders who have taken charge of this project and have been responsible for putting the entire newsletter together. At the beginning of the summer, our sixth graders were divided into three “Committees”: Submissions, which chose (and then edited!) the pieces that made it into the newsletter; Graphics, which worked on typography and created our amazing header; and Layout, which experimented with different newsletter outlines in an effort to craft their own! These students have worked diligently to make sure all the words were spelled correctly, colored inside the lines, and make all text boxes the same size. No time was wasted as we looked over everything once, twice, and even three times! Luckily, all the hard work paid off because we are now able to release our first issue. It was eye-opening to see what a group of young people was capable of doing when given the opportunity to take charge of a project that represents the entirety of our AALEAD elementary summer program!

Check out our newsletter here!

Kudos to all our elementary summer program kids! You all did a great job! Stay tuned for the next issue!

Goodbye AALEAD!

When I first entered through the AALEAD doors, I knew I had walked into something special. The perspective I gained about Asian Americans and youth in general is difficult to put into words. The past few weeks as the Maryland High School Intern has been an incredibly fulfilling experience, both professionally and personally. As cliche as this sounds, I learned something new every day. I learned how to sing loud and out of tune, to dance like nobody was watching (even though everyone was), and to never be afraid of who I am. Most importantly, I found acceptance within myself.

It was such an honor to work with the youth and staff of this organization and I truly admire their dedication to the community.

AALEAD, you will always have a special place in my heart!

Vanessa