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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.

By Tina Ngo, AALEAD Staff
Photos Courtesy of Sophie Zhao, DC Elementary School Program Teacher

This past weekend, AALEADers, mentors, staff members, and our friends over at CAPAL (Conference on Asian Pacific American Leadership) participated in the 25th Annual Potomac River Watershed Cleanup. Though it was a bit chilly in the morning, the clouds looming overhead eventually drifted away, and all that could be seen for the rest of the day were bright blue skies. As our students made their way over to Rock Creek Park, their energy and enthusiasm could be heard in their cheers and laughter.

The day started off with a brief orientation by our site coordinator, and off they were! AALEADers were handed gloves and trash bags, and then they were assigned to an area of the park to clean up. As they trudged their way through the mud, across the river, and over the grassy patches, AALEADers found many interesting things. From shoes to fossils, a CD, and even a car door, they discovered a myriad of items that were simply thrown away or forgotten in the park. In doing so, AALEADers became quite the explorers as they climbed over rocks and marched through the grass in order to do their part in keeping our Earth clean.

After two hours of picking up trash and recyclables throughout the Park, AALEADers were ready for lunch. They gathered with our mentors, staff members, and CAPAL volunteers at the nearby picnic tables to munch on delicious granola bars, fruit snacks, and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Once everyone was re-energized, AALEADers began to mingle with the new friendly faces that they did not have the opportunity to meet and get to know earlier that morning.

By helping to make the park a more beautiful and vibrant place, AALEADers learned about the importance of civic engagement, and how one’s actions can both positively and negatively impact our community and the world around us. As the event came to an end, AALEADers reflected on their surprise at the great amount of trash strewn across the area and discussed what they could do to help make their neighborhoods a cleaner place to live. Their motivated and lively conversations about what they could do to make the world a better place highlight the significance of community service and the positive impact that these opportunities have on our youth.

Special shout out to all of the elementary school students, mentors, mentees, staff, and CAPAL members who were able to join us! Also, our deepest thanks to CAPAL for providing the snacks for our students and Doug Barker from the Rock Creek Conservancy for helping us coordinate this event. We are so happy that we were able to share this wonderful experience together, and we hope to see you all again soon!

Our AALEAD Elementary School students at Bancroft ES had a great afternoon yesterday studying positive role models and reflecting on their own strengths and goals.  The class was introduced to Asian American singer songwriters, Clara C and David Choi.  They first watched interviews and music videos of the pair and then discussed what challenges Clara and David must have faced. Next, they discussed ways to overcome struggles and challenges in their daily lives.  Students finished up the activity by making themselves into a walking poster-boards celebrating their strengths and the goals they wish to achieve some day. Check out a few of these up and coming positive role models:

This week, at our Bancroft Elementary School Program, AALEADers learned about identifying positive and negative stereotypes. One of the best ways to ensure students truly grasp a concept, is to have them share what they have learned – so our AALEADers put their heads together and brainstormed ways to help other youth understand how harmful stereotypes can be. They came up with this video message. Enjoy!

This past Friday, students from Washington Yu Ying PCS graciously welcomed some of our Thomson Elementary AALEADers to their school campus in Northeast DC. Students spent the afternoon learning and sharing as they raced to complete a challenging scavenger hunt. Washington Yu Ying is a public charter school in DC that offers Mandarin Chinese immersion. This collaborative scavenger hunt event allowed these two  groups of students to come together, share their skills and talents, and grow their leadership and teamwork skills. Our AALEAD students also got to be the experts in the room as they shared their native Mandarin language skills!

To kick off the afternoon and break the ice,  each team, composed of both Yu Ying and AALEAD students,  started off by making team banners. Each team chose an animal from the Chinese Zodiac calendar and came up with a team slogan.  Here are some pictures of students making and presenting their team banners:

Next, it was time to start the competition! Teams tackled challenges like making up a 15-second dance, building a shelter, forming Chinese characters with their bodies, drawing illustrations for each month of the the Chinese zodiac calendar and placing each month in the correct order, shooting some hoops, and more. It was a joy to watch students’ shyness fall away as the afternoon progressed and they worked together to complete the challenges!

A huge thanks to Washington Yu Ying for partnering with us to give students this unique opportunity to learn and grow!

** View more pictures from this event on Flickr! **

Photo Credit: Micah Shearer

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

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.

AALEAD Irrigation 2012

This summer AALEAD Elementary Program will be building a fully Eco-friendly irrigation system at Thomson Elementary School. The elementary school students are working along with the high school students from our Secondary Schools Program in D.C., on this special project. The elementary and  high school students will building about seven irrigation systems in the roof-top garden. The irrigation system will be used to save water from the rain for later use. Once the systems are built the elementary students will be painting them.

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

Happy Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month! On Saturday, May 19, 2012 over 100 AALEAD students participated in the first ever AALEAD Flash Mob Dance performance at Fiesta Asia!  Students and staff had been working diligently on this dance for the past four to five weeks and even featured dances choreographed by the students themselves.  A sea of orange filled Pennsylvania Ave and it was definitely a moment that will be remembered forever.  In addition to performing, students enjoyed spending time with their friends, family, mentors, and volunteers by visiting different vendors and watching other performances at Fiesta Asia.  We ended the day with a cultural parade cheering “A-A-LEAD! A-A-A-LEAD!”  People standing in the crowd cheered as we marched with pride and smiling faces. Congratulations to all of the students and staff for putting together such an amazing show and for bringing together the AALEAD community like never before! Have a peek at our special performance!