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By Bhadon Shalakin, Mentoring Program Intern
Photos Courtesy of Surjeet Ahluwalia, AALEAD Executive Director

**Check out the video on this White House link at 38:29 to see Bhadon ask his question to the President!

Bhadon is a former student and current Mentoring Program Intern. We are so proud of him and hope you enjoy hearing about his experience at President Obama’s Town Hall on the “My Brother’s Keeper” Initiative!

Yesterday, I had the honor of attending the President’s Town Hall on the “My Brother’s Keeper” initiative. The day started off with warm welcomes and introductions between my fellow AALEADers and me. We made our way towards the Walker-Jones Education Campus, where the event was held. With everyone looking their best, it definitely was a fashionable event. After a brief wait in the security line, we made our way to our seats.

The first part of the event included a panel discussion between a student, a Board of Education member, Randall L. Stephenson (the CEO of AT&T), and James H. Shelton, III (the Deputy Secretary of Education). The panel was very insightful and focused on issues which are currently plaguing students from California to DC. After the endorsement of the initiative from NBA Commissioner, Adam Silver, we took a brief break. After the intermission, Chris Paul, an NBA player for the Los Angeles Clippers, came out to introduce President Obama. The President then talked about his plans for success for men of color and also shared his hopes that this initiative would be adopted across the country.

When the President was done with his speech, he opened up the floor for questions from the audience. I thought about asking him a question, but was very nervous. After a few questions were asked, I worked up enough courage to raise my hand. He turned around, looked me in my eyes, and pointed to me while saying, “The young man in the corner with the glasses.” I was in disbelief and had a million thoughts running through my head. As a proud Washingtonian, I asked him a question about a topic that means a lot to me: statehood for the District of Columbia. He immediately smiled his iconic smile and responded with: “I’m in DC. So I am for it.”

With a smile on my face for the rest of the event, I was greeted by strangers that thanked me for asking my question and for representing DC. It truly was one of my best and favorite moments as an AALEADer, and I am so thankful that I was able to attend this great event.

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!

By Laura Ma, DC Elementary School Summer Program Intern
Photos Courtesy of Micah Shearer and Tina Ngo

Now on to our second week of AALEAD’s DC Elementary School Summer Program! Both the students and the teachers are getting into a good groove. Last week, our youth learned both inside and outside of the classroom. Whether they were learning about how to maintain a healthy lifestyle or the best way to pick blackberries, our students had a smile on their faces. One particularly fun workshop this week was with Ms. Nadia and the Panda class, our little AALEADers. They learned some fun and easy exercises to stay healthy. Jumping jacks were a favorite of the little ones. The Pandas also enjoyed art workshop with week with Miss. Madeline who helped them explore their own identities by decorating small handmade journals with different decorations they thought expressed who they are. Our activities in class workshops are a great time for our AALEAD youth to express themselves. Rachel, from the Panda class, said “I like Miss Madeline’s class because I get to color and have fun.”

AALEAD youth from all four of our classes went on trips just as fun as Miss Madeline’s art class last Friday. We went to Homestead Farms to pick blackberries. This outing also included seeing some goats, chickens, and pigs on the farm as well as an exciting hayride! The hayride was a big hit. Logan, a curious AALEADer from the Lion class asked our guide, “The question is, where do you find tires THAT big?!” The students were all given plastic tins to stock up with blackberries. Our guide at the farm instructed the students to avoid the red berries and go find the ripe, black ones. Almost every student filled their box to the brim and we left the farm with two buses full of very happy AALEAD students.

The summer is already busy and we are all glad to see the students learning in multiple ways. Look for next week’s post about our Tiger class and their newspaper project!

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

This past Saturday, the Asian American LEAD (AALEAD) Mentoring Program held our 2nd Annual Mentoring Program Scavenger Hunt. Mentors and mentees were first invited to a potluck where there was a variety of food ranging from Subway sandwiches to pasta salads and sweet and colorful cupcakes. Unfortunately, there was a 50/50 chance that we would have to cancel the event due to inclement weather. Luckily for us, there was no rain, and the scavenger hunt was on! After all of the mentoring pairs had the chance to chow down and meet with other pairs in the program, it was time for the main event. The pairs were all split into teams of four, and off they were! The scavenger hunt had officially begun.

All of the groups were tasked with figuring out the answers to nine different clues within one hour. They would then have to take pictures or videos near the locations involving those clues to explain or demonstrate different aspects of AALEAD’s three outcomes: leadership, identity, and educational empowerment. Since the teams had the option of choosing which clues to start with first, some groups began their search around Meridian Hill Park while others immediately ran to the U Street Corridor.

At the end of the hour, all of the teams rushed back to the AALEAD DC office to see which group would reign supreme. All of the pairs relaxed and mingled as team by team went inside the conference room to discuss their findings with the judges, Bhadon and Tina. After a suspenseful 15 minutes, it was finally time to announce the victors! As the champions stepped up to claim their prizes, everyone found out that they were all winners. No one left empty-handed as the scavenger hunt was a victory for everyone; we all made new friendships and bonded over our shared commonalities and interests.

Events like the scavenger hunt are a wonderful opportunity to not only make new friends, but also learn a lot about ourselves and our community along the way. Sprinkled with lots of fun, laughter, and cheer, the 2nd Annual Mentoring Program Scavenger Hunt was truly a success! Many thanks to all of the mentors and mentees who participated as well as Heein, our Development and Communications Intern, who helped us document the entire event. We hope you all had a blast and can’t wait to see what else this summer has in store for us! See you soon!

By Bhadon Shalakin, Mentoring Program Intern
Photo Courtesy of Bhadon Shalakin, Mentoring Program Intern

Hi, my name is Bhadon Shalakin, and I am the Mentoring Program Intern this summer. I am currently heading into my freshman year of college at the University of Kentucky. I have been a part of AALEAD for 5 years as a student, but this is my first summer being an intern. I am looking forward to helping Tina teach students about leadership and community involvement as well as give advice on their transitions into middle or high school. While I have already taught some of these students before, I will also be meeting some of them for the first time, and I am excited to work with all of them this summer!

Interesting facts about myself: I was originally born in Dhaka, Bangladesh and moved to Washington, DC when I was only 1.5 years old. I enjoyed watching almost every sport and also play soccer and football frequently. Some of my other hobbies are to cook and read.

I know this summer will be a great opportunity to grow and develop as an advocate for the community. I especially look forward to gaining more hands-on experience while teaching a diverse group of students and think this is an awesome way to spend my last summer with AALEAD.

**Learn more about our other Summer 2014 Interns here: AlexDavidHeein, and Laura!**

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 Heein Choi, Development & Communications Intern
Photo Courtesy of Heein Choi, Development & Communications Intern

Hey everyone! My name is Heein Choi, and I am from Ellicott City, Maryland. I recently finished my first year at the College of William and Mary and intend to double major in Asian American Studies and Business. Over the summer of 2014, I will be serving as Asian American LEAD’s (AALEAD) Development and Communications Intern. Growing up in an Asian American community, I have been searching for methods to give back to the people that have placed the groundwork for me to succeed.

Hearing the stories of AALEAD students reminded me of my own experience of immigrating from South Korea at the age of five. When I first came to the United States, I struggled to establish my identity as an American. Although I had not been born in the United States, I felt every bit as American as my peers and wrestled with the question: what could I do to become fully American? When I pondered about these types of questions at a young age, I wished I had an organization like AALEAD to support me. With AALEAD’s mentoring and after-school programs set out to guide and nurture Asian American youth, these students know that they are not alone in these internal struggles.

I believe that AALEAD’s goal of serving Asian American youth coincides with my passions. At the College of William and Mary, I currently serve on the Executive Board of the Asian American Student Initiative (AASI), which is a grassroots team that is focused on spreading awareness of Asian Americans on campus. AASI reaches out to the students of William and Mary with innovative photo campaigns such as “Faces of Asian Americans.”

I am excited for the new experiences, people, and youth I will be meeting as an intern at AALEAD. Most of all, I am thrilled to know that I will be in an environment where my passion and dedication will be matched by every staff member.

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