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The Halloween season is a great time of year for students to get together and create something fun (or frightening) for others to enjoy.  Over the course of the past two weeks, our High School and Middle Students in DC worked together to transform our normally mild-mannered office space into a spectacularly scary Haunted House for the benefit of our Elementary School Program students. This event was a great opportunity for our high school students to mentor our middle schools students and for everyone to bond as  they shared ideas on how to make this year’s haunted house the scariest yet.  Here’s some photos of our Middle and High School students hard at work:

After much preparation, it was time to welcome our Elementary schools students! This event is an elementary school favorite and students were eagerly asking teachers “when is the haunted house!?” weeks in advance.

Before heading upstairs to the Haunted House (or for those who weren’t quite up to braving our secondary school student’s creepy creations), our elementary schoolers enjoyed some food and worked on Halloween themed crafts.

Events where students get to work together to create something are an important part of building a strong foundation for community among our students. Our Secondary School students did an amazing job with this event and succeeded in giving our Elementary School students a Halloween experience they will not soon forget!

Happy Halloween all and stay tuned for more news from DC AALEAD!

Photo Credit: Sharon Choi

From California to DC: Hello, AALEAD!

Hi, AALEAD! My name is Tina Ngo, and I’m so happy to be the new Mentoring & Volunteer Program Coordinator. I just moved here from Los Angeles, California, so I can’t wait to meet you all and learn all about the awesome East coast!

One of the things I’m really looking forward to this year is meeting all of our AALEAD-ers, especially the ones at Loiderman Middle School who I’ll be seeing every Wednesday. I’m also super excited to work with all of the great programs we’ve got running… I have a feeling that  the AALEAD family has an amazing year ahead of us!

Many thanks to the wonderful AALEAD team for such a warm welcome, and here’s to a fantastic year filled with tons of fun, friendship, and growth. See you all soon!

~Tina

P.S. Here’s a picture of me from my first week at the AALEAD office!

Photo Credit: Sharon Choi — thanks Sharon!

Learning by doing: Making Sushi Edition

Welcome back everybody! We’re so thrilled to see our students again and get back to the business of what makes AALEAD awesome.

The new year brings new challenges, new excitement and best of all, new opportunities to make and eat sushi!

Yep, making sushi has become an AALEAD Middle School staple over the years, so we dusted off the bamboo mats, got the rice cookers humming and the seaweed, crab and cucumber fresh and ready to go.

It can’t be said how much students love making sushi.  Among the reasons why:

–It’s hands-on, collaborative and teaches them a skill that they can show to friends and family.

–It’s a familiar access point to Asian American culture, allowing students to embrace their backgrounds in a fun and interesting way.

–Students have a self-made end product they get to enjoy and take home.

These outcomes fall strongly within AALEAD’s key success factor of Positive Self-Identity, which focuses on improving students’ self-esteem, expanding their horizons and allowing them opportunities to be proud of their culture and own unique abilities.

Check out the pictures below from programs at Parkland M.S.:

AALEAD Digital Connectors: What a Summer!

After a fun and work filled summer, AALEAD’s Digital Connectors program held its graduation ceremony at the end of August.  What a tremendous two months it’s been!

During the ceremony, students shared some of their favorite memories, from learning the in’s and out’s of IT, personal finance, and web applications, to playing volleyball in a nearby park, to just getting to know each other and becoming friends.  Students who may only have known each in passing grew closer and began to identify as “Digital Connectors” and not just “high school students from Blair, Einstein, Wilson, etc.”

Overall the students completed over one thousand community trainings! They worked with all age groups from all different backgrounds, from youth in the heart of D.C. to senior citizens, cousins, members of their church, etc.  This represents a tremendous amount of hard work and we at AALEAD are proud to say that our students have had a true impact on the community.

Each student had their own anime drawing form!

Over the summer AALEAD students in the Maryland High School Summer Leadership program earned over 80 SSL hours through their work with middle school youth and through organizing the first Asian American Youth Summit in Washington D.C. The Summer Leadership Program consisted of three parts: Student Leadership, Workplace Mentoring, and Youth Summit Planning. In the Student Leadership component, each high school student was assigned a role as a group leader or a workshop leader for the AALEAD Summer ME Program for middle school students. The Summer Me Program was centered on nutrition, fitness, mental health & the arts, as well as community service. It provided students an opportunity to learn how to take care of themselves in order to serve the greater community. Workshop leaders were responsible for creating lesson plans while the group leaders served as “counselors” and mentors for their group of Middle School students. It was truly special watching the high school students turn into role models for the younger students. Here are some of their reflections about their experience with AALEAD in Summer ME:

“Summer Me to me was one great experience. At first I was kind of down because I wanted to be a workshop leader but later found out that I was a group leader. I said to Francine and Sharon, “I promise you I am not going to like doing it.” They said, “Trust us, by the end of the program you are going to be grateful that we put you as this.” They were right. I really did love being a group leader. I had students that I have never met before that I am starting to know a lot about them. On the other hand, we did a bunch of activities like having a scavenger hunt, playing volleyball and basketball, learning and performing some choreography, and even doing yoga. Attending the Summer Me program was the best decision I made when summer started. I am very glad to have been a part of this program.”

“I learned to control myself a bit. Being around kids and leading the art workshop gave a sense of authority. Even though it’s exhausting at the end of the day, it’s fun. Also, now I know how my teachers and Francine feel when they’re or she is with us.”

“So far I learned a lot of new things such as being responsible around “kids” because I can’t do the same things as I do to my friends. Also being with AALEAD for the past few months was worth it because I became more responsible, not just to myself but to everyone. THANKS AALEAD!”

“Summer Me. It was definitely a program where I could learn more about myself. Even though I wasn’t able to participate full-time, I’ve gained many valuable experiences throughout that short period. It has taught me the importance of patience, maturity, responsibly and commitment. It has taught me that learning and having FUN can actually go together. Finally, the program has possibly given me more motivation to strive for my career goal as a teacher even more than I ever had before. I can’t believe how this program can have such an impact on me! Thanks for the opportunity AALEAD = Awesome!”

“Through Summer Me I formed bonds with the kids. It’s amazing how we transitioned from the initial awkwardness that comes with meeting new people to a group of people that you can share anything with. Being in Summer Me taught me how to be responsible and I feel that because of this one day I can become someone younger people can look up too.”

Summer ME was such a huge success thanks to the hard work and dedication of the students, AALEAD Staff, interns, volunteers! Because of the leadership of the high school students, AALEAD has risen to a new level of community building and students are motivated to keep the energy going into after school programs. Summer programs are truly magical moments for AALEAD students and these moments would not be possible without the support of all of those who attended and donated money at the 2012 Annual Dinner. Thank you for your generosity and for helping us make Summer ME possible! For more summer memories visit our AALEAD blog!

Elementary School Summer Program Wrap-Up

What a summer! AALEAD’s Elementary Summer Program wrapped on August 3rd after six packed weeks of field trips, activities, guest speakers, Chinese lessons, construction paper, glitter, crayons, markers, and glue.  At the close of the program, we asked students to tell us what their favorite part of the program was and here’s a visual snapshot of their answers:

Clearly, field trips were a recurring favorite, and for good reason! In six short weeks students got to visit a working farm and pick blackberries, have two indoor field days, complete a Museum Scavenger Hunt, compete in the DC Mayor’s Office of Asian and Pacific Islander Affairs Annual Sidewalk Chalk Contest, visit the Newseum, go swimming, participate in a Tennis Clinic at Kastle’s Stadium and finally, everyone’s favorite, – take a trip to Great Waves Water Park!

When not on a field trip, students spent their afternoons learning about health and wellness, exploring the arts, and giving back!  Students took part in yoga workshops, learned an Indonesian calisthenics routine, and discussed different aspects of both physical and mental health. For the arts, students got to paint, make and decorate maracas and drums, learn some break dancing, and more! Students gave back by working in Thomson’s rooftop garden where they planted, weeded, and watered.

Additionally, in cooperation with our secondary school program, students helped to designed and decorate a water collection system utilizing our prize-winning water barrel from our participation in the Be Water Wise DC program! Click here to read more about this project from the Secondary School Program perspective!

In the morning, students explored the richness of Chinese language and culture through workshops taught in Mandarin Chinese. Students got to play Chinese children’s games, learn Chinese yo-yo, chess, calligraphy, dance, and music, and act out traditional folk tales. Students also got to make congyoubing (scallion pancakes), sushi, and jiaozi (dumplings)!

To tie it all together, students reflected weekly on their busy summer by creating a newspaper!

On our final day of programs, the Thomson school cafeteria was packed with siblings, parents, grandparents, cousins, friends, and fellow AALEADers. I could not have been more proud as I watched students enthusiastically show off everything they had learned this summer. There were songs sung in Mandarin, a short bilingual play based on a traditional Chinese poem, a scarf dance, demonstrations of Chinese yo-yo, Indonesian calisthenics, and yoga, a rhythm circle, a presentation on our service project, and, back by student popular demand, an encore performance of the Fiesta Asia dance. Watching these performances I was amazed by how much our students had accomplished in such a short amount of time.

We owe thanks to so many people for coming together to make this summer happen. A big thank you goes out to the Children Youth Investment Trust for their funding and support. Thank you also to the Principal and staff of Thomson ES and to the DCPS Office of Out of School Time for making it possible for us to use space at Thomson Elementary School for the program this summer. Thank you to the many volunteers who showed up week after week, supplemented lessons, helped with activities, chaperoned field trips, and so much more. Thank you finally to the AALEAD Elementary School team! These amazing Teachers and TA’s delivered consistent, high quality programming throughout the summer and daily demonstrated their dedication to these students.

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.

THE CELEBRATION

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:

COMCAST

National Association of Asian American Professionals (NAAAP)

PROGRESSIVE BEATS

HOLLYWOOD EAST CAFE

COMFORT INN

Veronica Salcedo

Naomi Tucayan

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!

Hello everyone! I’m Olivia

Hey guys This Olivia!! I am student alumni at AALEAD. I was in the Secondary High School Program with AALEAD for 3yrs. Now I’m a college freshmen in Montgomery College as a Graphic Design major and I can’t wait to give back to the AALEAD family that has helped me grow to the person I am today. I will work as Intern this summer with the students from the Elementary School Program. Its going to a lot of fun and craziness! And hopefully by the end if this I’ll still be sane! So keep posted with us everyone, because its going to be a wild summer with us at AALEAD!!! :D

**Meet our other Summer 2012 Interns!**
Kaileigh
Nam
Chelsea
Marjan
Iris

Our Thomson and Bancroft elementary school programs took time this week to celebrate and reflect on what has truly been a fantastic program year. At both schools we celebrated with food, games, and an “open mic” where students got to share their talents – including an encore performance of the AALEAD Fiesta Asia dance! We also took time to honor and congratulate our graduating 5th graders (We are so proud of you!). Parents, grandparents, and siblings also joined in on the food and celebrations. It was a precious time of reflecting on and being grateful for the amazing relationships that have been built over the course of the year.

A special thank you goes out to all of the AALEAD Elementary School staff – these teachers care deeply about our students and in the midst of juggling very busy lives and a multiplicity of hats (public school teacher, student, parent, entrepreneur, and much more) they never cease to give their all to our AALEADers.

Looking around the room at parents, grandparents, siblings, students, and staff enjoying food and time together left me completely humbled to be a part of this wonderful AALEAD family!

Micah Shearer
Elementary Program Manager

On Thursday, June 14, 2012 AALEAD students from the D.C. Secondary School Program, Middle School Program, and Maryland High School Program gathered together to celebrate the end of the year.  In addition to the AALEAD students, parents, mentors and volunteers were also in attendance equaling to over 120 attendees at our End of the Year BBQ Celebration! During the celebration students enjoyed hamburgers and hot dogs, participated in relay races and recognized graduating 8th grade students and high school students.

As a special farewell gift, 8th grade students received certificates of graduation from AALEAD staff and High School Seniors received personalized scrapbooks with letters from staff and students.  One senior gave a speech at the end to reflect on his experience with AALEAD.  He spoke to his experience with AALEAD and reminded his fellow students about the importance of surrounding yourself with good people because it will take you far in life.  It was truly a special moment as staff began to witness the growth of their students into young adulthood. From introducing new staff members to the AALEAD family, to phenomenal flash mob performances, to the small intimate conversations about self-confidence and potential with students, this year has truly been special in more ways than one.  Congratulations AALEAD on a very successful school year of after school programs! What’s next?  SUMMER PROGRAMS!!!