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Reflections on My AALEAD Summer

By Laura Ma, DC Elementary School Program Intern
Photos Courtesy of AALEAD Staff

My seven week internship with Asian American LEAD’s (AALEAD) Elementary  School Program has been – to put it frankly – awesome. Although the time was short, I felt comfortable very quickly with all of the staff, teachers, and kids. I was hopeful about this internship when I left my semester of study in Shanghai not only because I would be able to continue using my Chinese, but also because I would be able to interact with students. I feel so fortunate to be able to work with such a great group of people who are truly dedicated to the families they serve. Much of the learning I have done these past few weeks has come from simply observing the teachers and AALEAD staff.

Micah, the DC Programs Manager, works tirelessly to ensure that every student is having fun, being safe, and most of all, learning. Watching her arrange field trips, work with the kids, and simply input data have all been helpful to me in my learning experience. I found myself mimicking her and some of the other staff and teachers during my days at Thomson Elementary. This did include techniques for reinforcing rules, such as walking in the hallway and staying quiet in line.

However, my responsibilities did go beyond asking the kids to go back to where they started running and walk. Working on the administrative side of the non-profit also gave me a closer look at how a smaller organization functions and how each role has a larger effect. Non-profit work isn’t easy, and seeing every staff member at AALEAD give 150% really inspired me this summer. This internship has been a rewarding experience and has given me an opportunity to see education in a new and different light. I feel more confident to continue pursuing education as a career. Additionally, I am seriously considering returning to AALEAD to work as a Teaching Assistant next summer. I’m grateful to Micah, Tina, Surjeet, and all the other AALEAD staff, teachers, interns, and students for making this summer such a great experience.

**Read additional Summer 2014 Interns’ reflections here: AlexBhadonDavid, and Heein!**

By Tina Ngo, AALEAD Staff
Photos Courtesy of AALEAD Staff

Every Wednesday, the middle and high school youth in Asian American LEAD’s (AALEAD) Mentoring Advisory Council (MAC) meet with our rising 6th graders to discuss various topics and issues that they may encounter as they transition into middle school. Two weeks ago, AALEADers met for the very first time and participated in fun team-building activities while learning more about leadership. Read more about the first MAC Transition workshop here!

Last week, AALEADers came together to learn more about the various academic resources offered in middle school. After getting together in small groups, they shared what they think it means to be successful in school and in life. Each group was then given a scenario about a student who was dealing with different challenges in school. They all had to make up a skit about what resources the student should use and how the student could actively participate in finding a solution for his/her problems. The creativity was definitely flowing as AALEADers worked together on their scripts and eventually performed their imaginative, yet pragmatic plays! Youth then reconvened as a larger group to discuss strategies for time management and having more independence in middle school. Our younger students really look up to their older peers who have been doing a great job mentoring them and answering all of their questions.

Yesterday, AALEAD youth talked about what diversity means to them. Students shared insightful thoughts and began to open up as they discussed different qualities that make people unique and why it’s important to be accepting of others, regardless of their backgrounds. Youth were then given a scenario about a new student at school who was made fun of because he/she was different, and all of the groups had to come up with skits and solutions. As each group performed their plays, they all touched on different resources that were discussed last week. When it came time for the group discussion, all of the younger students understood why diversity is important in our world today and knew exactly who they should go to for help. The older AALEAD youth were especially proud of the younger students as they have already learned so much since the first session!

The AALEAD MAC Transition workshops have played a significant role in encouraging our youth to step up to the plate and become leaders not only within AALEAD, but their own lives as well. The workshops have served as a safe space for youth to express their opinions and learn from their peers in a meaningful way. We look forward to spending more time with the MAC students over the rest of the summer and can’t wait to see them grow even more!

Leadership: A Step-by-Step Process

By Bhadon Shalakin, Mentoring Program Intern
Photos Courtesy of Tina Ngo, AALEAD Staff

Last Wednesday,  the Asian American LEAD (AALEAD) Mentoring Advisory Council’s (MAC) Transition workshops took place for the very first time! The AALEAD MAC Transition workshops will be happening every Wednesday and are intended for students that are graduating from elementary school to middle school and middle school to high school. Since transitions from and into different school settings can take time for adjustment, these workshops will help support AALEAD youth in becoming more acquainted with the resources available at their schools and provide tips on how to deal with various issues. Some of the topics the AALEAD MAC Transition workshops will be focusing on include leadership, bullying, peer pressure,  time management, and independence. By participating in these workshops, AALEAD’s rising 6th and 9th graders will not only have a head start on their future academic pursuits, but they will also have the opportunity to  share insights and develop leadership skills as they help mentor their peers.

The afternoon kicked off with our middle and high school youth. After a round of introductions, we played games such as Human Knot and also participated in a relay race that was centered on team building, communication, and leadership. After everyone had the chance to get to know each other, we had a discussion on the values of leadership and teamwork. Our AALEAD youth had wonderful thoughts to share as they talked about who their role models are and what qualities they think leaders have.

Next came the workshop with the transitioning elementary school students. After youth were introduced to each other, groups were split up into teams where the middle and high school youth were all paired with some elementary school students. The first activity everyone participated in was the Desert Island where groups all named and created their own desert island. Each team also had to think of three items they would bring on the island. AALEAD youth had so many creative and interesting answers! From beds to survival guides, the students thought of it all and were super excited to share their thoughts.

During the last activity of the day, students stood in a leadership line, and they talked about different aspects of leadership and gauged what levels of leadership they were comfortable with. Similarly to the middle and high school students, elementary school youth also participated in an insightful conversation on the qualities of a good leader with their teams and then with the larger group. As students began to understand more about leadership and the topics that the the AALEAD MAC Transition workshops will cover, they all became eager and ready to learn more.

We are so excited for the rest of the summer and look forward to our next workshop!

By Alex Neeley, DC Elementary School Program Intern
Photo Courtesy of Alex Neeley, DC Elementary School Program Intern

Hello! My name is Alex Neeley, and I will be interning with the DC Elementary School Program this summer. I am currently going into my junior year at the University of Washington in Seattle where I am pursuing a degree in International Studies. I am also a 2012 graduate of Woodrow Wilson Senior High School in Washington, DC.

In the past, I have worked with elementary school children at the Smithsonian Summer Camp. Additionally, I have worked with high school students through the University of Washington Dream Project, a program that helps low-­income high school juniors and seniors from Seattle apply for college and post-secondary school careers. Through AALEAD, I am looking to continue my work with children, while providing support and guidance for my fellow DC Public School (DCPS) students. I am excited for this summer and look forward to working with everyone at AALEAD!

**Learn more about our other Summer 2014 Interns here: Bhadon, David, Heein, and Laura!**

By Laura Ma, DC Elementary School Program Intern
Photo Courtesy of Laura Ma, DC Elementary School Program Intern

Hello! My name is Laura Ma, and I am very excited to be in Washington DC this summer working as one of AALEAD’s DC Elementary School Program Interns. I am originally from Elkton, MD and am a rising senior at the University of Delaware, where I am pursuing a dual degree in East Asian Studies and Interpersonal Communications with a minor in Mandarin Chinese. My interest in AALEAD comes from my interest in Asian culture, intercultural communications, and teaching. This past spring semester, I lived and studied Chinese in Shanghai while additionally teaching fourth grade English at a migrant school. I look forward to using the skills from that experience here in DC through community and youth development at Thomson Elementary School.

Here are other fun facts about myself: I am second generation Honduran and Chinese and have a love for food from all cultures. Although I am not great at cooking, I love eating and socializing. My favorite television shows include, but are definitely not limited to: Modern Family, Game of Thrones, and House of Cards. During my free time, I like to play tennis and volleyball. Traveling is another hobby of mine which I hope to continue after graduation as I am currently applying for a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship in Taiwan.

I am very excited to begin this internship because I know I will be learning and cultivating my own skills while helping students and contributing to AALEAD.

**Learn more about our other Summer 2014 Interns here: AlexBhadonDavid, and Heein!**

Volunteer Voices: Rhea’s Story

By Rhea Montante, Former AALEAD Volunteer
Photos Courtesy of Sharon Choi, AALEAD Staff

Asian American LEAD’s (AALEAD) Volunteer Program consists of energetic and enthusiastic individuals who dedicate varying amounts of time to our youth and organization. While some of our volunteers  meet with our students on a weekly basis during programs, others help out with some of the administrative work and behind-the-scenes responsibilities. As our school-year programs come to a close, we are so thankful for Rhea and all of our volunteers who have truly made a positive, lasting impact on our youth this year. Please enjoy Rhea’s story, and thank you again to all of our volunteers for all that you do! We truly appreciate you and can’t wait to see what this summer has in store for all of us! -Tina, Mentoring & Volunteer Program Coordinator

Three weeks ago, I started my first day volunteering with AALEAD. I think in any situation where you’re thrown into a new environment in which you’re not the most familiar with, the first day can be filled with lots of uneasiness. However, on my first day at the AALEAD office, I was welcomed quite warmly, and those first day jitters seemed to dissipate quickly. I was immediately introduced to all of the AALEAD staff, and I knew that this was going to be a great experience working with such awesome people.

Over the next three weeks, I helped out at the office and at AALEAD’s wonderful DC Elementary School Program. From learning more about the administrative side of the organization to interacting with the kids themselves, I learned a lot throughout my time here. I especially had a great time working with all of the youth! Before I volunteered with AALEAD, a career working with students never even crossed my mind, but the hands-on experience I received throughout my short stay definitely opened my eyes. These three weeks passed by so quickly, and it saddens me that I was only able to volunteer for such a short amount of time. I want to say thanks to the entire staff for being such great and marvelous people. Thank you AALEAD for being such an extraordinary organization!

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

This past weekend, AALEADers joined mentors, volunteers, staff members, and our friends at CAPAL (Conference on Asian Pacific American Leadership) in cleaning up Piney Branch-Crestwood Park during the 26th Annual Potomac River Watershed Clean Up. This was an especially wonderful event because three of our students from Annandale High School were able to join us for the first time! Despite the windy weather, all of our students braved the cold and did an awesome job in doing their parts to help keep our Earth clean. As they made their way over to the meeting area, excited cheers and laughter could be heard from all around.

After listening to a brief orientation by our site coordinator, AALEADers broke off into teams and gathered their materials (gloves, trash bags, and recycling bags). Venturing across creeks, over grassy hillsides, and through some underbrush, our youth discovered countless interesting items along the way. From an entire outfit (jeans and a T-shirt!) to a skateboard, a motor, and even a few coconuts, many random items were simply discarded or forgotten in the park. Quite the hard-working adventurers, AALEAD youth continued to separate the recyclables and trash even as they made their impressive findings throughout the area.

Lunch time quickly approached, and the students were ready to gather as a larger group again. As they feasted on granola bars, fruit snacks, crackers, and fruit, youth chatted with the other AALEADers, mentors, volunteers, and staff who they had not had a chance to meet prior to the event. Students who currently attend different schools also reunited and had a fantastic time catching up!

Events like the park clean-up teach our youth important leadership skills such as teamwork and giving back to the community. As AALEADers reflected on the day, they mentioned how surprised they were that so much trash and odds and ends could end up in such an important part of their community. All of them vowed to continue making the world a better place by recycling and making sure to throw their trash away.

Thank you to all of the youth, mentors, volunteers, staff, and CAPAL members who joined us! Also, special shout out to our friends at CAPAL for providing the snacks for our youth and Doug Barker, Margo Reid, and Karen Zeiter from  the Rock Creek Conservancy for helping us coordinate the event. We had a blast this year and can’t wait to work together with all of you again next year!

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

Last week, the AALEAD Mentoring Advisory Council (MAC) met for the second time! After everyone had a chance to settle in, the meeting began with a brief discussion on the role of mentors and how to maximize your time with your mentor. This portion of the meeting was led by Bhadon, an AALEAD student who has been matched with his mentor for almost three years. Since MAC is composed of youth who are both new to and familiar with the Mentoring Program, many of the newer students had questions, while the veteran students were eager to share their insights. This part of the session set a really great tone for what the remainder of the year will look like as youth were engaged and excited to talk about their experiences with their peers.

After everyone’s questions were answered, students began to jot down suggestions about events that they would like to have later in the year. From writing about the importance of holding a park clean-up and keeping our Earth clean to listing potential universities to check out for a college visit, youth were enthusiastic about taking ownership of their program and had many wonderful ideas. Youth then volunteered with our younger Thomson AALEADers! They helped read to the little ones, participated in a group activity, and assisted some of the students with their homework. Volunteering with the younger AALEADers is the part of the day that the MAC students look forward to the most as many of them have siblings who are still enrolled in our after-school programs, and many of the MAC youth themselves also attended our Thomson Elementary School Program when they were younger.

We are so proud of our MAC students who continue to challenge themselves and play an active role in making our community a better place. Until next time!

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

This year, Asian American LEAD (AALEAD) is focusing on three outcomes: Educational Empowerment, Identity, and Leadership. Our Mentoring Program students work towards these outcomes by attending cultural events, working on career development activities, and participating in community service events… all with their amazing Mentors! Outside of planned group outings, youth enrolled in the Mentoring Program don’t often have the opportunity to achieve these goals with their Mentoring Program peers on a regular basis since they come from all across DC and Maryland. With the AALEAD Middle School Youth Council kicking off just this past year, the Mentoring Program students also wanted a space to meet new friends in the Mentoring Program and share their ideas and help plan for Mentoring Program-specific events.

That’s why, on Tuesday, January 28, AALEAD’s first-ever Mentoring Advisory Council (MAC) met for the very first time! Seven middle school youth from varying DC schools met at one of our elementary school program sites, Thomson, to enjoy each other’s company and begin envisioning the year ahead together. There was much excitement and energy in the room as students were reunited with old friends or met for the first time. The meeting began with brief introductions as well as conversation about each student’s favorite healthy snack. Youth then discussed what the Mentoring Program meant to them, what their roles in the Council would be, and what outcome-based events they would like to see in the coming year. Finally, they split off into pairs and volunteered as program aides with our youngest Thomson AALEADers.

By incorporating their individual interests and sharing their opinions, students in the Mentoring Program are truly taking ownership of their program and moving the program up to the next level. They are also setting wonderful examples for our little AALEADers by taking the time to give back to the community and volunteer. We are so excited for our next MAC meeting later this month and can’t wait to see our youth continue to grow and develop to their greatest potential in these leadership roles!

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.