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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

By Karen Yee, DC Secondary School Program Intern
Photos Courtesy of AALEAD

In just a couple hours, AALEAD’s 2nd Annual Asian Pacific American (APA) Youth Summit will begin!

DC and Maryland High School youth have been busy planning and putting the final touches in preparation for this weekend. The Registration Committee has been hard at work monitoring and keeping track of the number of registered youth. The Public Relations Committee has created and is putting up flyers, and doing their final push on social media to get the word out. The Workshop Committee has been coming up with fun and educational workshops that participants will be allowed to attend. The Entertainment Committee this week has the final set list for this Friday’s kick off event, a talent show, and they have been hosting auditions and putting together an entertaining show for the participants. The Food Committee has been working hard, going door to door and calling vendors to accumulate food donations from businesses and restaurants.


The youth have also worked hard to fundraise for the Youth Summit. Just recently, they had a Car Wash Fundraiser in College Park, Maryland. They spent five hours out in the sun for the car wash so that people could contribute to their cause, which was organized themselves. The youth efficiently wet, soaped, and dried cars, and took short breaks when the heat became too much. Overall, it was a very successful fundraiser and the energy of the Car Wash Fundraiser transferred over to the following two-hour Youth Summit planning session for that day.

Today is the very first day of the Youth Summit! The Talent Show, which begins at 6:30 pm, will host an amazing diversity of talent and will have participants excited and restless for the next day of the Youth Summit. Tomorrow, there will be an abundance of workshops and interactive activities for participants to really hone their leadership skills and talk about the issues that are important to them. Looking forward to it!

By Yenling Yang, AALEAD Elementary Program Intern

A student's yummy poem about pizza!

Another poem about ice cream!

These poems drafted by some of our AALEAD rising sixth graders display the art of showing, not telling. According to Wendy Shang, author of The Great Wall of Wendy Lu, this is what writers do. In addition to writing and rewriting and rewriting, a writer’s job is to manipulate the English language so that it depicts a scene, a picture, an illustration with specific sensory details, so that readers feel like they are taking the same journey as the main character. Instead of stating, “Ice cream is delicious,” a writer might prefer something like this: “The ice cream cone tasted refreshingly cold and overwhelmingly sweet on my tastebuds, as some of the ice cream also trickled down my hand.”

How’s that? I think I picked up a thing or two during Ms. Shang’s workshop!

The enthusiastic Wendy Shang dropped by two weeks ago for workshops with our third & fourth grade classes, and stopped by again last Thursday to get the minds of our rising fifth and sixth graders churning with creative juices. After reading an excerpt from her book, she explained her fascination with describing food, using sensory details such as sight, touch, smell, taste, and hearing. She then introduced the concept of a cinquain (or a 5-lined poem) and it seems to me like we have some potential thought-provoking poets in AALEAD! The kids were asked to write about their favorite food, which resulted in poems about pizza, ice cream, french fries, seafood, and many more! A plethora of action verbs and adjectives surfaced during the workshop, from chomping to slurping to rotten to smooth to moist. So many satisfying mental images popped into my head as the kids read their poems that I was nearly salivating by the end of their recitations!

Way to go fifth and sixth graders!

One last cinquain!

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

Summer has just begun and so has our DC Elementary School Summer Program! On July 1, we kicked off our 5-week program at Thomson Elementary School with over 100 youth (114 youth, to be exact – almost double the number of students in the program last year!) and 19 part-time staff members. Even though we are only about two weeks into the program, the enthusiasm from staff, students, and volunteers has been tremendously overwhelming and absolutely contagious, as each day is filled with laughter, smiles, and lots of learning. The students have already gotten to know their teachers and it’s only a matter of time before we get to see each relationship blossom into long lasting relationships.

Ms. Sophie with some of her students at the Newseum!

This summer, we are so lucky to be working with an amazing team of part-time staff members with a wealth of professional and personal experiences, ranging from teaching abroad and in DC schools to extensive experience working in the community (particularly the Asian American community). They hail from all around the DC metro area, the country, and even the world! All have been eager to share their gifts and talents with their colleagues and their students and are doing an amazing job facilitating lessons and activities designed to help our students combat summer learning loss, explore their identity and place in the world, and develop into visionary leaders.

Ms. Katie and the Eagle team!

During these five weeks, our schedule is packed! During the morning programs, our students are immersing themselves in a literacy program, whose highlights include “Fractured Fairytales” and “Reading Buddies. “Fractured Fairytales” take classic fairytale stories and turn them upside down! For example, instead of reading The Three Little Pigs and the Big Bad Wolf , they are reading The Three Little Wolves and the Big Bad Pig. The students have indulged in mini-art projects, creative writing, skit-producing, and grammar activities that are structured to help them expand their vocabulary and find fun in the pages of books. During the morning portion of the program each week, our students take a trip to the library, check out fascinating reads, and engage with one another as “Reading Buddies.” As older students read to the younger ones, the laughter and smiles that have erupted have been magical to see!

Last but not least, our students also get to delve into learning about themselves, their peers, and their community as they transition into the afternoon program. As part of this year’s “I Am the Difference” theme, our youth have been participating in four areas focused on health, community, identity, and presentation (creating a newsletter). Using creativity and some thinking outside of the box, both students and staff have made smoothies, practiced yoga, met with an author (Wendy Shang, author of The Great Wall of Lucy Wu), gardened and gone swimming, among other activities. In addition, every Friday, youth take a field trip around the area! Last week, we visited Homestead Farm in Poolesville, MD, where we picked fresh and organic blueberries, while this week, they headed to the Newseum, where we learned about journalism, reporting, and broadcasting.

Students at Homestead Farm with an alpaca!

Learning at the Newseum!

So much has been accomplished these past two weeks and we are so proud of our students and staff. With only three more weeks left, let the fun continue!

Intern Spotlight: Are you in on Yenling?

By Lynda Nguyen, AALEAD Summer Development & Communications Intern

Photos Courtesy of AALEAD

Today’s ‘Intern Spotlight’ focuses on Yenling, our DC Elementary Summer School Program intern! Yenling is a rising senior at Brown University, studying health and human biology (a field she is very invested in). In addition to studying health, Yenling is also a dedicated member of the Asian American Student Association at Brown.

Through her time here at Asian American LEAD (AALEAD), she has been able to combine both of her interests, health and Asian American community development. As the ES Summer Program intern, Yenling has taken on many roles that has helped her define what “health and wellness” exactly means here at AALEAD. Continue to read below and see what this native Kentuckian has to say about her experience with AALEAD.

Q: Describe your role here at Asian American LEAD.

A: My position is the DC Elementary School Program intern, so I have an interesting combination of jobs: teacher’s aide, friend, organizer, database entry person, administrator, point person, teacher, map, copier, entertainment, etc. It couldn’t get any better!

Yenling having lunch with some AALEADers.

Q: Why did you choose to volunteer at AALEAD?

A: I chose to volunteer with AALEAD because I was interested in how an Asian American-based community organization could affect the health of Asian American kids. As a human biology major, I’m quite fascinated by how the many facets of our environments can impact our bodies. Thus, working in a school, where I could see what is being fed to young students, both literally and figuratively, peaked my interest. Plus, I adore kids and their care-free natures!

Q: How has working with AALEAD impacted you as a student, advocate, and/or educator?

A: AALEAD has taught me that patience is vital in working not only with students, but also with peers, mentors, and other members of the community. Even though we desperately want the best for our kids and sometimes, we want it now, it seems as though learning how to be patient relieves some of the frustration/tension. However, patience definitely does not equate to a lack of productiveness, so “productive patience” seems to be the best way to approach people and topics from what I have learned.

Yenling with the ES Summer Program on a field trip to a local farm.

Q: What are three things you most enjoy about your program?

A: Genuine laughter, vibrant pictures that are not colored within the lines, and unexpected enthusiasm!

Q: What is one word that encapsulates your summer thus far?

A: Spectacular!

Yenling with a student from the ES Summer Program.